Tag Archives: Pliny

Atlantic

    The adjective Atlantic originally referred to Mount Atlas*, on which the heavens were fabled to rest. It was hence applied to the sea near the western shore of Africa, and afterwards extended to the whole ocean lying between Europe and Africa on the east and America on the west. * The Atlas Mountains […]

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to lick someone/something into shape

    MEANING   to act forcefully to bring someone or something into a fitter, more efficient, or better-organised state     ORIGIN   It was believed that bear cubs were born formless and had to be licked into shape by their mother. In his encyclopaedia of the natural and human worlds, Naturalis Historia (The […]

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rhyparographer

    MEANING   a person who paints or writes about distasteful or sordid subjects     ORIGIN   The noun rhyparographer, or rhyparograph, is from Latin rhyparographos, meaning painter of low or sordid subjects. This Latin noun is from ancient Greek ῥυπαρός (= rhyparos), meaning dirty, filthy, and -γραϕος (= -graphos), one who writes, portrays […]

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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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marguerite

marguerite

  ox-eye daisy flower photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Tony Wills       Borrowed from French in the early 17th century, marguerite originally denoted the common daisy. It is now another term for the ox-eye daisy; also called moon daisy, this plant has large white flowers with yellow centres (scientific name: Leucanthemum vulgare, family Compositae).   The same […]

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peach

peach

       The word peach is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as pesche (modern French pêche). The French name is in turn from post-classical Latin persica, alteration of classical Latin persicum, short for Persicum malum, literally Persian pome. (The scientific name of the peach is Prunus persica.) Latin malum is often translated […]

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in a nutshell

in a nutshell

      MEANING   In a few words; concisely stated, encapsulated.     ORIGIN   The phrase was originally an allusion to a copy of Homer’s Iliad which was supposedly small enough to be enclosed in the shell of a nut. The story was told by the Roman statesman and scholar Pliny the Elder […]

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let the cobbler stick to his last

let the cobbler stick to his last

  a shoe last     The proverb let the cobbler stick to his last means that one should do the work one is expert at, and not try to interfere in, or do, that of others.     A last is a shoemaker’s model for shaping or repairing a shoe or boot. The word […]

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a hair of the dog

a hair of the dog

  A hair of the dog is an alcoholic drink taken to cure a hangover. It is from a hair of the dog that bit you, formerly recommended as an efficacious remedy for the bite of a mad dog. The first recorded use of this phrase in English dates back to 1546. In his Proverbs, Epigrams and […]

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