Tag Archives: military

ribald

    MEANING   (adjective): referring to sexual matters in an amusingly rude or irreverent way     ORIGIN   This word is from Anglo-Norman and Old and Middle French forms such as ribalde, ribaut, ribauld, ribault, (Modern French ribaud), derived from the Old French verb riber, to give oneself up to pleasure. This verb […]

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comrade

comrade

        In Spanish, from the noun cámara (from Latin camera), meaning a chamber, a room, was derived the collective feminine noun camarada, a military term attested in the mid-16th century in the sense of chambered or cabined (company). (The French feminine noun chambrée, from chambre, room, has the same meaning.) In Spanish, […]

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companion

companion

  photograph: David Levene for the Guardian       In the sense of a person one chooses to socialise or associate with, this noun dates back to the early 14th century. It is from Anglo-Norman and Old and Middle French forms such as compaignun and compaignon (Modern French compagnon), derived from Late Latin companio/companion-, attested […]

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French leave

French leave

  Sandra Dallas     MEANING   an unauthorised or unannounced absence or departure     ORIGIN   The earliest (and most curious) instance of the expression that I could find is in the anonymous novel Benedicta (1741). The heroine is about to get married: Mrs Butler, who on this extraordinary occasion, had taken French leave of her […]

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fletcher

fletcher

  The Mutineers turning LIEUᵀ BLIGH and part of the OFFICERS and CREW adrift from His MAJESTY’s Ship the Bounty, by Robert Dodd (1748-1815)       The noun fletcher denotes a person who makes and sells arrows. It also formerly designated an archer. It is from Old French flechier, flecher, of same meanings, derived […]

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between the devil and the deep blue sea

between the devil and the deep blue sea

  contemporary etching of troop disposition at the beginning of the Battle of Breitenfeld (1631)       MEANING   in a difficult situation where there are two equally unpleasant choices     ORIGIN   The reference to the sea suggests a nautical origin. The use by sailors of devil as a name for a […]

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Morton’s fork

    MEANING   a practical dilemma, especially one in which both choices are equally undesirable     ORIGIN   John Morton (circa 1420-1500), Archbishop of Canterbury, cardinal and Lord Chancellor to King Henry VII, is traditionally believed to have developed a method of levying forced loans by arguing that those who were obviously rich […]

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to chew the fat (or the rag)

to chew the fat (or the rag)

  Charley Tell-Tale Keeping the P. P. Gents on the broad Grin with his laughable Anecdotes illustration for Anecdotes (original and selected) of the Turf, the Chase, the Ring, and the Stage (1827), by Pierce Egan       MEANING   to chat in a leisurely and prolonged way     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary […]

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on the qui vive

on the qui vive

  Chaucer reciting – early 15th-century manuscript of Troilus and Criseyde (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)       MEANING   on the alert, attentive     ORIGIN   The French phrase qui vive ? literally means (long) live who?. It is a sentry’s challenge, intended to discover to which party the person challenged belongs, with […]

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slogan

slogan

  The Death of Chatterton (1856), by Henry Wallis (1830-1916)         A slogan was originally a war cry or battle cry employed by Scottish Highlanders or Borderers, or by the native Irish, usually consisting of a personal surname or the name of a gathering-place. The word is from Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, composed of […]

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