Tag Archives: Jonathan Swift
fleshpots

fleshpots

  Jonathan Swift by or after Charles Jervas (1709-10) image: National Portrait Gallery         MEANING   places providing luxurious or hedonistic living     ORIGIN   Literally, a fleshpot is a pot in which flesh, i.e. meat, is boiled to eat. The source is biblical. In the Book of Exodus, 16:3, when […]

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Grub Street

Grub Street

  Grub Street – John Rocque’s 1746 map of London     MEANING   The noun Grub Street denotes the world or class of literary hacks. As an adjective, also spelt Grubstreet, it means having the nature of literary hack-work.     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson gave […]

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over the moon

over the moon

  Mother Goose’s Melody; or Sonnets from the Cradle – 1791 edition     The phrase to be over the moon means to be very happy or delighted.   However, its earliest occurrence, as to leap over the moon, seems to have an opposite meaning. In his tragicomedy The Humorous Lieutenant (circa 1619), John Fletcher […]

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yahoo

yahoo

  The servants drive a herd of Yahoos into the field laden with hay by Louis Rhead (1857-1926)     MEANING   A yahoo is a rude, noisy, or violent person.     ORIGIN   The name was invented by the Anglo-Irish writer and cleric Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) in Gulliver’s Travels (1726) for an imaginary […]

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the land of Nod

the land of Nod

  Fernand-Anne Piestre Cormon – Cain flying before Jehovah’s Curse – circa 1880     In the Book of Genesis, the land of Nod, located on the east of Eden, is the place where God exiled Cain after the murder of his brother Abel. In the King James Version (1611), Genesis, 4:16, is: And Cain […]

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mad as a March hare – as a hatter

mad as a March hare – as a hatter

  The March Hare and the Hatter dunking Dormouse (illustration by John Tenniel - 1865 - Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)       Phrases associating animals with madness – in the sense of lunacy or angriness – have long existed. For example, in The Comedy of Errors (around 1594), Shakespeare used the phrase (as) mad as a buck: It would make a man […]

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porter, stout & cooper

porter, stout & cooper

      Monsieur César de Saussure         Porter (short for porter’s ale or porter’s beer) is a kind of beer, of a dark brown colour and bitter taste, brewed from malt partly charred or browned by drying at a high temperature.   It is worth noting that, originally, porter was a […]

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ketchup

ketchup

              Originally, ketchup was a sauce made from the juice of mushrooms, tomatoes, walnuts, etc., used as a condiment with meat or fish.   The word ketchup appears to be from Chinese (Amoy dialect) kōetsiap, brine of pickled fish or shellfish, from kōe, seafood, and tsiap, sauce.   It […]

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arrant

arrant

    Found only with nonsense and one or two other nouns expressive of contempt, the adjective arrant has a curious history.   It was originally a variant of errant, meaning wandering, vagrant, vagabond, as in knight errant, a medieval knight wandering in search of chivalrous adventures.   (This vowel change, e becoming a, also […]

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