Tag Archives: orthography
a pretty kettle of fish

a pretty kettle of fish

  photograph: The Grocer     MEANING   The phrase a pretty (or fine) kettle of fish means an awkward state of affairs.     ORIGIN   There is an obvious error in the Oxford English Dictionary (1st edition – 1901): under the headword kettle in the general sense of a vessel for boiling water or […]

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eggcorn

eggcorn

  photograph: Launceston Parish Wildlife Project       MEANING   An eggcorn is a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one which sounds very similar, as in to tow the line instead of to toe the line.     ORIGIN […]

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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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umpire

umpire

  Sir Thomas Parkyns of Bunny (1713) image: National Portrait Gallery       MEANINGS   – in some sports: an official to whose decision all doubtful points are referred, and who sees that the rules are not broken – a person who arbitrates between contesting parties     ORIGIN   The Old and Middle […]

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Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

Shrove Tuesday – le Mardi gras

  le carnaval de la mi-carême, Nantes (France) – photograph: MaxPPP/France-Soir         Shrovetide is the period comprising Quinquagesima Sunday, or Shrove Sunday, and the two following days, Shrove Monday and Shrove Tuesday. It immediately precedes Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. (Quinquagesima is short for ecclesiastical Latin quinquagesima dies, fiftieth day, because, […]

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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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surly

    MEANING   bad-tempered and unfriendly     ORIGIN   This word was originally a variant of the obsolete and rare adjective sirly, composed of the noun sir and the suffix -ly, and meaning sir-like, lordly, hence haughty, imperious (it is similar to German herrisch, imperious, from Herr, lord, sir). The word sirly is first recorded, used […]

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to run amok

    MEANING   The adverb amok, also spelt amuck, is used in the phrase to run amok, which means to behave uncontrollably and disruptively.     ORIGIN   Via Spanish amuco and Portuguese amouco, amok is from a Malay word thus defined by Charles Payson Gurley Scott in The Malayan Words in English (1897): āmuḳ, […]

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squirrel

squirrel

  photograph: Peter Trimming       The noun squirrel, which appeared in Middle English in forms such as squyrel and squerell, is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as escuirel and escureul (Modern French écureuil), from the unattested Late Latin scuriolus, diminutive of an unattested altered form of the Latin word sciurus (biologists have retained the […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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