Tag Archives: vegetal
old chestnut

old chestnut

  photograph: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos/Wikimedia Commons       MEANING   a joke, story, or subject that has become tedious and uninteresting through constant repetition     ORIGIN   In old chestnut, the adjective old is simply an intensifier of the noun. The figurative use of chestnut seems to have its origin in US theatrical slang. In Notes […]

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sub tegmine fagi

sub tegmine fagi

  William Mason (1774), by Joshua Reynolds image: BBC ‘your paintings’       The Latin phrase sub tegmine fagi means under the cover of a beech tree. It is composed of sub, under, tegmine, ablative of tegmen, covering, and fagi, genitive of fagus, beech tree. It alludes to the bucolic setting evoked in the […]

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a bite at the cherry

a bite at the cherry

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Benjamint444     MEANING   an attempt or opportunity to do something     ORIGIN   As B. A. Phytian explains in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), this is a curious development from the original meaning, which implied over-fussiness, squeamishness or even hypocrisy. A cherry is of course easily […]

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petrichor

petrichor

  photograph: Evdaimon/Wikimedia Commons     The pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm, dry weather is called petrichor. The word also denotes an oily liquid mixture of organic compounds which collects in the ground and is believed to be responsible for this smell. This word is composed […]

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green man

green man

  This character, which is that of a wild or savage man, was very common in the pageants of former times, and seems to have been very popular. from The Sports and Pastimes of the People of England, by Joseph Strutt (edited by William Hone – 1838)       PAGEANTS   In Tudor and […]

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vanilla

vanilla

  Vanilla planifolia in Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (1887), published by Franz Eugen Köhler     In English, the word is first attested in The Indian Nectar, or A discourse concerning chocolata (1662), by the author and physician Henry Stubbe (1632-76): The next Ingredient of Chocolata is Tlilxochil (or, as some write it, Tlixochil) or, as the […]

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new broom

new broom

  broom-besom – photograph: Etsy       A new broom is a person who, or thing which, effects fundamental or numerous alterations, especially a newly appointed person who vigorously sets about making changes in personnel, procedures, etc. The first known user of the term is Robert Sanderson (1587-1663), Bishop of Lincoln, in a sermon […]

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Jerusalem artichoke

Jerusalem artichoke

  photograph: BBC goodfood       The name Jerusalem artichoke designates a North American sunflower, Helianthus tuberosus, cultivated for its underground edible tubers, and the tuber of this plant, which is cooked and eaten as a vegetable.   This name first appeared in 1620 in the form artichoke of Jerusalem. It is an alteration […]

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fig leaf

fig leaf

  portion from Adam and Eve (1538), by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)       MEANING   A thing intended to conceal a difficulty or embarrassment     ORIGIN   It is an allusion to the Book of Genesis, 3:7. The serpent has just convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit: 6 When the […]

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sycophant

sycophant

  amulet representing the ‘fig’ hand (mano in fica) illustration from The Evil Eye (1895) by Frederick Thomas Elworthy       MEANING   A sycophant is a person who acts obsequiously towards someone important in order to gain advantage.     ORIGIN   The noun sycophant is from Latin sycophanta, meaning an informer, slanderer, […]

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