Tag Archives: London
muggins

muggins

  a Toby jug by Ralph Wood the Younger (1748-95) photograph: Victoria and Albert Museum     MEANING   A muggins is a foolish and gullible person. The word is often used humorously to refer to oneself.     ORIGIN   In colloquial usage since the mid-19th century, this word is perhaps a use of […]

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no man’s land

no man’s land

  The shell-blasted landscape – circa 1916 photograph: National Army Museum     The earlier form of no man’s land was none man’s land and both originally denoted a piece of waste or unowned land, an uninhabited or desolate area. None man’s land appeared as early as 1086 in the Domesday Book, the comprehensive record […]

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bluestocking

bluestocking

  Benjamin Stillingfleet, by Johann Zoffany     MEANING   A bluestocking is an intellectual or literary woman.     ORIGIN   The term blue stocking originally alluded to blue stockings as worn by men, specifically cheap blue worsted stockings as opposed to more expensive and formal white silk stockings. Originally, blue stocking was particularly […]

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‘whip’

‘whip’

      MEANINGS   A whip, originally called a whipper-in, is an official of a political party appointed to maintain parliamentary discipline among its members, especially so as to ensure attendance and voting in debates. In the United Kingdom, the Whip is a weekly circular sent out by whips to their MPs or Lords […]

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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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settee

settee

  A settee is a long upholstered seat for more than one person, typically with a back and arms.   The word is first recorded in 1716; a London shop sign was: Joseph Fletcher, leather gilder to His Majesty, selleth and maketh all sorts of Hangings for Rooms and Stair-cases, chairs, settees and screens.   […]

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bier & barrow

bier & barrow

  Smithfield Market, London’s oldest wholesale market: a porter drags a barrow full of meat away from the market     A bier is a movable frame on which a coffin or a corpse is placed before burial or cremation or on which they are carried to the grave. First attested in the 9th century, […]

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shirty

shirty

  Children swing on a lamp post in Lambeth, 1893     The adjective shirty means: – angry (temporarily); – ill-tempered (by nature); – apt to become quickly angered.   It was first defined in 1859 in The Dictionary of Modern Slang, Cant, and Vulgar Words, by John Camden Hotten: shirty, ill-tempered, or cross. When […]

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The ‘cheap’ in Cheapside

The ‘cheap’ in Cheapside

  Cheapside, circa 1890-1900     Cheapside is the former site of one of the principal markets in London – one of the meanings of cheap was market. The names of several streets located on or near Cheapside originate from the goods that were sold there: Poultry, Milk Street, Wood Street, Honey Lane and Bread […]

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Zeppelins in a cloud

Zeppelins in a cloud

        The Zeppelin, named after the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who pioneered rigid airship development, was a large German dirigible airship of the early 20th century, long and cylindrical in shape and with a rigid framework. Zeppelins were used during the First World War for reconnaissance and bombing, and after the […]

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