Tag Archives: London
it’s Greek to me

it’s Greek to me

    The noun Greek has long been used in the sense of unintelligible speech or language, gibberish, and the phrase it’s (all) Greek to me means I can’t understand it at all. This expression is well known from The Tragedie of Julius Cæsar (1599), by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616): (Folio 1, 1623) Cassius. Did Cicero say any thing? Casca. I, he spoke Greeke. Cassius. To what […]

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happy as a sandboy

happy as a sandboy

  The phrase (as) happy (or jolly) as a sandboy means extremely happy or carefree. A sandboy was a boy hawking sand for sale. It seems that the earliest use of the word is The Rider and Sand-boy: a Tale, the title of a poem written by a certain Mr Meyler and published in Harvest-Home in 1805: A poor shoeless urchin, half-starv’d and sun-tann’d, Went by the Inn […]

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Maundy

Maundy

    silver Maundy coins The effigy of the Queen on ordinary circulating coinage has undergone four changes, but Maundy coins still bear the same portrait of Her Majesty prepared by Mary Gillick for the first coins issued in the year of her coronation in 1953.     Maundy was originally the ceremony of washing […]

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hallmark

hallmark

      This picture shows grouping of hallmarks on a silver punchbowl. (They are not always in the same position.) 1 – Maker’s Mark – Richard Martin & Ebenezer Hall 2 – Lion Passant – Sterling Silver Mark 3 – Assay Office Mark – London Post 1821 4 – Date Letter -‘E’ for 1880 […]

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a baker’s dozen

a baker’s dozen

    A baker’s dozen is a group of thirteen.   One of the first attestations of the expression is in John Florio’s Dictionarie of the Italian and English Tongues (1611): Serqua. A dozen, namely of eggs, or as we say a baker’s dozen, that is thirteen to the dozen. Serqua d’uuóua, the word is only used in […]

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pantechnicon

pantechnicon

  A Dictionary of Science, Literature, & Art – 1842 – by W. T. Brande           A pantechnicon is a large van, especially one used for furniture removals.     Pantechnicon is an invented word, from two Greek ones: the first syllable pan- means all, and tekhnikon belonging to the arts. […]

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barmy

barmy

    Barm is the froth that forms on the top of fermenting malt liquors. It is used to leaven bread, and to cause fermentation in other liquors. This is why the literal senses of the adjective barmy are: – of, full of, or covered with, barm, – frothing. Therefore, barmy came to be applied […]

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mumbo jumbo & jumbo

mumbo jumbo & jumbo

      MUMBO JUMBO     The word mumbo jumbo has the following meanings: foolish religious reverence, ritual, or incantation; meaningless or unnecessarily complicated language; an object of superstitious awe or reverence.   Mumbo jumbo is an anglicised approximation to a Mandigo term for an idol or god venerated by certain West African tribes. […]

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tennis

tennis

  Jeu de paume – France – 17th century     Paulme: feminine. The paulme of the hand; also, a ball; (and hence) also, Tennis (play;) also, the Palme tree. from A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), by Randle Cotgrave     Fourthly, the inside of the Uvea is black’d like the walls […]

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‘guy’

‘guy’

  The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, by Heinrich Ulrich early 17th century - National Portrait Gallery Guy (“Guido”) Fawkes is third from the right        The proper name Guy is derived, via French, from the Old German Wido, either from wit, meaning wide, or from witu, wood. Wido has become Guy in French because in words of Germanic origin, when initial, the labio-velar approximant /w/ has regularly become the […]

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