Tag Archives: London

costermonger

    MEANING   a person who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a barrow     ORIGIN   A costermonger was originally an apple-seller, a fruiterer. The word is composed of costard, meaning a kind of apple of large size, and monger, denoting a dealer or trader in a specified commodity. The noun […]

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picnic

picnic

  Blowing up the PIC NIC’s:—or—Harlequin Quixotte attacking the Puppets. Vide Tottenham Street Pantomime (1802), by James Gillray (1756-1815) — image: The British Museum         MEANING   a meal eaten outdoors     ORIGIN   This word is from French pique-nique, probably formed with reduplication from the verb piquer, to pick. (Similarly, pêle-mêle, […]

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R.S.V.P.

R.S.V.P.

    R.S.V.P. is an initialism from French répondez s’il vous plaît (literally respond if you please), meaning please reply, used at the end of invitations to request a response. It first appeared in English in the early 19th century. For example, in Domestic Duties; or, Instructions to young married ladies, on the management of […]

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to be part and parcel of

    MEANING   to be an essential feature or element of     ORIGIN   Derived from Anglo-Norman forms such as parcele and parcell and Old and Middle French parcelle, parcel has as primary meaning small part of a whole. This noun is from an unattested post-classical Latin particella, part, portion, alteration of classical Latin particula, […]

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‘spud’

    MEANING   informal: a potato     ORIGIN   The noun spud is related to Old Norse spjōt, meaning spear, German Spieß, of same meaning, and English spit in the sense of skewer. It is first recorded in in the English-Latin dictionary Promptorium parvulorum sive clericorum (Storehouse for Children or Clerics - around 1440): Spudde, cultellus […]

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to take the mickey

    MEANING   British (informal): to take the mickey (also micky, mick, mike) out of someone: to tease or ridicule someone     PROBABLE ORIGIN   Rhyming slang is a type of slang that replaces words with rhyming words or phrases, typically with the rhyming element omitted. For example apples, short for apples and pears, […]

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Brexit

Brexit

    MEANING   the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union     ORIGIN   A blend of British, or Britain, and exit, this term dates back to 2012. The form Brixit appeared in Bagehot’s notebook on British politics, in The Economist of 21st June: A Brixit looms MY PRINT column this […]

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hooligan

hooligan

  A member of the Hooligan gang, John Darcy, aged 19, fatally stabbed Henry Mappin, a passer-by, in Oakley Street, Lambeth, London, on 15th July 1898.       MEANING   a rough lawless young person     ORIGIN   This word first appeared in print in 1894 in newspaper police-court reports as a qualifier, […]

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to rain cats and dogs (1)

to rain cats and dogs (1)

    MEANING   to rain very hard     ORIGIN   Although B. A. Phythian made an interesting hypothesis as to the origin of this phrase in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), to rain cats and dogs is probably based on a cat-and-dog fight as a metaphor for a storm or […]

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rus in urbe

rus in urbe

  Duck Island Cottage in St James’s Park, London photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Kunstlerbob       MEANING   an illusion of the countryside within a city     ORIGIN   This Latin expression, which translates as the country in the city, is from an epigram to Sparsus, by the Roman writer Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis – […]

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