Tag Archives: law

mayhem

  The word maim appeared in the early 14th century. As a verb, it originally meant to cause bodily hurt or disfigurement to, and subsequently to mutilate, to cripple. As a noun, it meant a lasting bodily injury, and subsequently a mutilating wound. The noun maim is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as […]

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to tot

to tot

  To tot was a legal term meaning to mark an item in the sheriff’s list with the word tot or the letter T, showing that the amount had been levied, and was to be accounted for, by him. This verb is first recorded in 1368 in a public statute written in French: Par la […]

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clink

clink

  Winchester House (from a view by Hollar, 1660)         MEANING   prison     ORIGIN   The Clink was the name of a prison in Southwark, London. A Svrvay of London. Conteyning the Originall, Antiquity, Increase, Moderne estate, and description of that City, written in the yeare 1598, by Iohn Stow […]

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an Englishman’s home is his castle

an Englishman’s home is his castle

       MEANING   An English person’s home is a place where they may do as they please and from which they may exclude anyone they choose.     ORIGIN   This saying was coined in an anachronic fashion by the historian Edward Augustus Freeman (1823-92) in The History of the Norman Conquest of […]

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Magna Carta

Magna Carta

  one of the four surviving copies of the 1215 Magna Carta photograph: The British Library       Magna Carta, or the Great Charter, is a charter of liberty and political rights obtained from King John of England (reigned 1199-1216) by his rebellious barons at Runnymede* on 15th June 1215, which came to be […]

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referendum

referendum

  A protester holds up a banner during the Melbourne stands with Greece solidarity rally outside Parliament House in Melbourne on 4th July 2015 – photograph: AFP/Getty Images       MEANING   A referendum is a general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a […]

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ostracism

ostracism

  ostrakon against the Athenian statesman Themistocles (circa 528-462 BC) photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Giovanni Dall’Orto       MEANING   Exclusion from a society or group     ORIGIN   In Athens and other ancient Greek cities, ostracism was a political measure by which citizens whose power or influence was considered dangerous to the state were […]

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to blackball

to blackball

  Mary Delany (née Granville) – 1782 – by John Opie photograph: National Portrait Gallery         MEANINGS   – To reject a candidate applying to become a member of a club or other society by means of a secret ballot. – To exclude someone from society, a profession, etc.; to ostracise.   […]

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in someone’s good books – blacklist

in someone’s good books – blacklist

  The Black Book of the Exchequer photograph: The National Archives/History of government         The earliest black books were record books or ledgers usually relating to finance or administration, and the adjective seems to have had no other significance than to indicate the colour of the binding. For example, in a letter […]

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red tape

red tape

  bundle of US pension documents from 1906 bound in red tape photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Jarek Tuszynski       MEANING   Excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities.     ORIGIN   Woven red tape is used to tie up bundles of legal documents and official papers. A Dictionary of Law (eighth edition […]

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