Tag Archives: orthography

glamour

      MEANING   an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing     ORIGIN   It was originally a Scottish alteration of grammar. The noun grammar is from Old French forms such as gramaire (modern French grammaire), from Latin grammatica (ars), from Greek γραμματική (τέχνη) (= grammatike (tekhne)), […]

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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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bugbear

bugbear

  a lamia, from The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658) (A lamia was a fabulous monster supposed to have the body of a woman, and to prey upon human beings and suck the blood of children.)       MEANING   a cause of obsessive fear, anxiety or irritation     ORIGIN   […]

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bankrupt

bankrupt

  Siena: Allegory of Bad Government (1338-39), by Ambrogio Lorenzetti (circa 1290-1348)       The noun bankrupt is from Italian bancarotta, attested since the 15th century, and its French adaptation banqueroute, first recorded in 1466. The English word is first attested in the plural form bancke rouptes in The Apology of Sir Thomas More, Knight […]

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Sciapodes

Sciapodes

  a sciapod, from the Hereford Mappa Mundi (circa 1300)       The Sciapodes (or Monopods) were a mythical race of people supposed to have lived at the southern edge of the ancient Greek and Roman world, who each had a single leg ending in a foot of immense size with which they shaded […]

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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 sit below the salt

to sit below the salt

  The Salt-cellars are of singular form and rich workmanship. The most noticeable is—the Golden Salt-cellar of State, which is of pure gold, richly adorned with jewels, and grotesque figures in chased work. Its form is castellated : and the receptacles for the salt are formed by the removal of the tops of the turrets. […]

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caprice

caprice

  Audrey (1888), by Philip Richard Morris (The weekly newspaper Graphic commissioned twenty-one studies of Shakespeare’s heroines, which were exhibited in London in 1888.)       MEANING   a sudden and unaccountable change of mood or behaviour     ORIGIN   Via French, the English word caprice is from Italian capriccio, which, composed of […]

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mari complaisant – wittol

mari complaisant – wittol

  Cuckoos are famed for laying their eggs in host species’ nests, leaving unwitting “foster” birds to raise their chicks. Photograph from Cuckoos are no match for local reed warblers (BBC).       The French expression un mari complaisant, which literally means an accommodating husband, denotes a husband tolerant of his wife’s adultery. This sense […]

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holy-stone

holy-stone

  In nautical slang, a holy-stone was a piece of sandstone used by sailors for scouring the decks of ships. The terms bible and prayer-book were also used, as Admiral William Henry Smyth indicated in The Sailor’s Word-Book: an alphabetical digest of nautical terms (1867): – Bible. A hand-axe. Also, a squared piece of freestone to […]

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