Tag Archives: Rabelais
to return to one’s muttons

to return to one’s muttons

  The court scene - woodcut from the edition of La Farce de Maistre Pathelin by Pierre Levet, circa 1489       MEANING   to return to the matter in hand     ORIGIN   This phrase is from French revenons à nos moutons (let us return to our sheep), which is said to have […]

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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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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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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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‘bumf’

‘bumf’

  François Rabelais       MEANINGS   toilet paper, hence, derogatively, superfluous documents, forms, publicity material, etc.     ORIGIN   This British noun is a late-19th-century abbreviation of bum-fodder. The Germanic noun fodder, related to food and forage, appeared around 1000 in the sense of food in general, and food for livestock in […]

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jovial

jovial

        MEANING   The adjective jovial means cheerful and friendly.     ORIGIN   It is a borrowing from French jovial, originally meaning under the influence of the planet Jupiter, which as a natal planet was regarded as the source of joy and happiness. The French adjective first appeared in 1546 in […]

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matagraboliser – to metagrobolise

matagraboliser – to metagrobolise

    François Rabelais (circa 1494-1553)       In A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), Randle Cotgrave translated the French verb metagraboulizer as: To dunce upon*, to puzzle, or (too much) beat the brains about. (* The obsolete verb to dunce meant to puzzle, prove to be a dunce; to make […]

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