Tag Archives: theatre
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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jeremiad

jeremiad

  Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem (circa 1630), by Rembrandt (1606-69)       Jeremiah (circa 650-585 BC) was a Hebrew prophet who foresaw the fall of Assyria, the conquest of his country by Egypt and Babylon, and the destruction of Jerusalem. He is traditionally regarded as the author or part-author of two Old […]

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claptrap

claptrap

  Thomas Cobham as Marmion (1827), by John Rogers, published by George Virtue, after Thomas Charles Wageman – photograph: National Portrait Gallery       MEANING   absurd or nonsensical talk or ideas     ORIGIN   The word dates back to the first half of the 18th century and originally meant a use of […]

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upstage

upstage

  The stage is divided into various areas and notated from the actor’s perspective looking out towards the audience. In large opera productions, the back portion of the sloped stage is elevated to facilitate better viewing of the company.  This is how the terms upstage and downstage evolved. Erik Sean McGiven       The […]

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cold call

cold call

  photograph: Which? – Ten tips to stop cold calls     The noun cold call denotes an unsolicited visit or telephone call made by someone trying to sell goods or services. Here, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (1989), cold means without preparation, preliminary performance, etc. It was originally an American usage; the earliest quote in this dictionary is […]

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boulevard

boulevard

  Paris, around 1895 boulevard de la Madeleine with l’église de la Madeleine on the left       English borrowed the French noun boulevard in the second half of the 18th century; writing from Paris on 30th August 1769, the English author and politician Horace Walpole (1717-97) told John Chute: My dear old woman […]

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nuppence & tuppence

nuppence & tuppence

  a twopence-coloured print: Mr T. P. Cook in six of his principal characters     The noun nuppence means no money, nothing. It is composed of the n- of no and the -uppence of tuppence, variant of twopence. The first known user – and perhaps coiner – of this word is the Scottish historian, translator, journalist, lecturer, biographer, anthropologist, poet, and […]

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slapstick

slapstick

    A slapstick consists of two flat pieces of wood joined together at one end, used to produce a loud slapping noise.   Although the device is much older, the word slapstick itself, originally American English, only dates from the late 19th century. The double-slatted paddle was specially used in pantomime and ‘low’ comedy to […]

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mum’s the word

mum’s the word

    Be like Dad – Keep Mum! Careless talk costs lives! a 1940-42 British poster (source: East Carolina University - http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/10976)           To keep mum is to remain silent, especially so as not to reveal a secret. And mum’s the word, as a request or warning, means say nothing; do not […]

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