Tag Archives: USA
mumbo jumbo & jumbo

mumbo jumbo & jumbo

      MUMBO JUMBO     The word mumbo jumbo has the following meanings: foolish religious reverence, ritual, or incantation; meaningless or unnecessarily complicated language; an object of superstitious awe or reverence.   Mumbo jumbo is an anglicised approximation to a Mandigo term for an idol or god venerated by certain West African tribes. […]

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soft soap & soft solder

soft soap & soft solder

      James Russell Lowell circa 1855         Soft soap, or green soap, is a soft or liquid alkaline soap made from vegetable oils, used in treating certain chronic skin diseases.   Figuratively, soft soap means flattering, persuasive, or cajoling talk. And the verb soft-soap means to use such talk on […]

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to kidnap

    To kidnap originally meant to steal or carry off children or others in order to provide servants or labourers for the American plantations. This verb is composed of to nap (of which to nab is a variant), meaning to seize, to snatch, and the noun kid, used in a specific sense first explained […]

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from pillar to post

from pillar to post

    The phrase from pillar to post means: from one party or place of appeal or resource to another; hither and thither; to and fro; implying repulse and harassment. Oxford English Dictionary - 1909   It was originally from post to pillar, and is first recorded around 1420: And when he thedyr came, Humylyté hym took A token and bad […]

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‘guy’

‘guy’

  The Gunpowder Plot Conspirators, by Heinrich Ulrich early 17th century - National Portrait Gallery Guy (“Guido”) Fawkes is third from the right        The proper name Guy is derived, via French, from the Old German Wido, either from wit, meaning wide, or from witu, wood. Wido has become Guy in French because in words of Germanic origin, when initial, the labio-velar approximant /w/ has regularly become the […]

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to have an axe to grind

to have an axe to grind

  photograph: An Ax to Grind: A Practical Ax Manual – Federal Highway Administration     Of American origin, the expression to have an axe to grind (American spelling ax) means to have a private reason for doing, or being involved in, something. It has often been attributed to Benjamin Franklin¹. For example, the New English Dictionary (NED – 1888), as the Oxford English […]

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left & right – la gauche & la droite

left & right – la gauche & la droite

  ‘You’d better go and shift that ladder to the right window.’ ‘You mean the left window.’ ‘Well, let’s call it the correct window.’ I braced myself to break the bad news. ‘Ah,’ I said, ‘but what you’re overlooking – possibly because I forgot to tell you – is that a snag has arisen which […]

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