Tag Archives: Shakespeare
an ill wind

an ill wind

     First performed on 14th May 1860 at the Adelphi Theatre, London       It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good is a proverb meaning few things are so bad that no one profits from them.   The phrase was already referred to as an “old proverb” in The Interlude of […]

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hail-fellow-well-met

hail-fellow-well-met

  Well met, drawing by Charles Altamont Doyle (1832-93)       The obsolete adjective hail meant free from injury, infirmity or disease. It is from Old Norse heill, meaning whole, hale, sound. This Old Norse word is related to the English adjectives whole and hale, which are doublets, as they are both from Old […]

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crow-keeper

crow-keeper

    Wheat field with crows (1890) – Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)     Of a Crow-keeper There be many called crow-keepers; but, indeed, There’s no crow-keeper but thou in time of seed; Where others keep crows out, like starvelings forlorn, To keep crows in plight, thou keepest crows in the corn. John Heywood – […]

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Amazon

Amazon

          The Amazon is a river in South America, flowing over 6,683 km (4,150 miles) through Peru, Colombia, and Brazil into the Atlantic Ocean. It drains two fifths of the continent and, in terms of water flow, it is the largest river in the world.   The river bore various names […]

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to rack one’s brains

to rack one’s brains

      A torture rack in the Tower of London The use of the rack in England was abolished in 1640       To rack one’s brain(s) means to make a great effort to think of or remember something.   The phrase has its origin in the verb rack in the sense torture […]

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point-blank – de but en blanc

point-blank – de but en blanc

  Gunner’s quadrant Quadrant consisting of two arms of unequal length joined at a right angle and fitted with a graduated arc. At the vertex of the right angle is suspended a plumb bob that shows the degrees on the graduated arc. It was typically used to measure the elevation of artillery pieces, by inserting […]

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a baker’s dozen

a baker’s dozen

    A baker’s dozen is a group of thirteen.   One of the first attestations of the expression is in John Florio’s Dictionarie of the Italian and English Tongues (1611): Serqua. A dozen, namely of eggs, or as we say a baker’s dozen, that is thirteen to the dozen. Serqua d’uuóua, the word is only used in […]

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Tom, Gib & Tib

Tom, Gib & Tib

      TOM   Thomas is derived via Greek from the Aramaic name תָּאוֹמָא (Ta’oma’) which meant twin.  Tom, a familiar shortening of Thomas, has often been used as a generic name for any male representative of the ‘common’ people. For example, Tom and Tib was used like Jack and Jill to mean lad […]

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curfew

curfew

    Nowadays, a curfew is a regulation requiring people to remain indoors between specified hours, typically at night – for example: a dusk-to-dawn curfew. The word is from Old French and Anglo-Norman forms such as cuevre-feu and covrefeu, hence the Modern French word couvre-feu (plural couvre-feux), composed of: – couvre, imperative of the verb […]

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tennis

tennis

  Jeu de paume – France – 17th century     Paulme: feminine. The paulme of the hand; also, a ball; (and hence) also, Tennis (play;) also, the Palme tree. from A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611), by Randle Cotgrave     Fourthly, the inside of the Uvea is black’d like the walls […]

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