Tag Archives: John Milton
pandemonium

pandemonium

  Charles Macklin (circa 1792), by John Opie image: National Portrait Gallery       MEANING   a place or state of utter confusion and uproar     ORIGIN   In Paradise Lost (1667), the English poet John Milton (1608-74) invented the word Pandæmonium, with a capital P, as the name for the capital of Hell, containing the […]

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every cloud has a silver lining

every cloud has a silver lining

  Anna Maria Hall (1861), by Daniel John Pound – image: National Portrait Gallery     The proverb every cloud has a silver lining means that every difficult or sad situation has a comforting or more hopeful aspect, even though this may not be immediately apparent. In 1840, the Irish novelist known as Mrs S. C. Hall (Mrs […]

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to rule with a rod of iron

to rule with a rod of iron

  William Tyndale         A rod is a wand or staff as a symbol of office, authority, or power. This is exemplified by the name Black Rod, which designates, in the United Kingdom, the chief usher of the Lord Chamberlain’s department of the royal household, who is also usher to the House […]

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in limbo – dans les limbes

in limbo – dans les limbes

    L’Ombilic des Limbes (The Umbilicus of Limbo) – 1925 by Antonin Artaud (1896-1948), French playwright, poet, actor and theatre director       The word limbo in the phrase in limbo designates an uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition. It is also used to mean a […]

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hidebound

hidebound

  Frontispiece to Sylva Sylvarum, Or, A Natural History, in Ten Centuries by Francis Bacon       The adjective hidebound means unwilling or unable to change because of tradition or convention.   The word dates back to the mid-16th century as a noun denoting a malnourished condition of cattle.   In Thesaurus Linguæ Romanæ […]

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piping hot

piping hot

    Piping Hot - Glasgow International Piping Festival. (The name has changed to Piping Live.) It is a pun as, here, piping means playing (a tune) on bagpipes.     The adjective piping hot is used to refer to very hot food or liquid, usually when served. It referred originally to the hissing of viands in the frying pan, the verb pipe meaning, in this case, to make a whistling […]

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forlorn hope

forlorn hope

    MEANING   a persistent or desperate hope that is unlikely to be fulfilled, a faint hope, a ‘hope against hope’     ORIGIN   On the face of it, this is a curious expression, because the adjective forlorn does not normally mean faint but miserable, lonely, forsaken or sad. The current sense of forlorn hope derives either from wordplay or from a misunderstanding of […]

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