Tag Archives: USA
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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motherese

motherese

  Elissa Lee Newport – image: The Franklin Institute       In social psychology and linguistics, motherese, or Motherese, denotes a simplified form of language used especially by mothers in speaking to babies and young children, characterised by repetition, simple sentence structure, limited vocabulary, onomatopoeia, and expressive intonation. This term is composed of the […]

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promenade concert

promenade concert

  the Proms (2015) – photograph: BBC       A promenade concert is a concert at which some of the audience stand rather than sit.   In French, promenade is attested in 1599 in the sense of a place for promenading, and in 1671 in that of a leisurely walk. With addition of the […]

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Fabian

Fabian

   the first Fabian pamphlet (1884)       Founded in 1884, the Fabian Society is a British organisation of socialists aiming to achieve socialism by gradual rather than revolutionary means. It derives its name from the Roman general and statesman Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus (died 203 BC), known as Fabius Cunctator. After Hannibal’s defeat […]

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mayhem

  The word maim appeared in the early 14th century. As a verb, it originally meant to cause bodily hurt or disfigurement to, and subsequently to mutilate, to cripple. As a noun, it meant a lasting bodily injury, and subsequently a mutilating wound. The noun maim is from Anglo-Norman and Old French forms such as […]

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paparazzi

paparazzi

  Walter Santesso (center) as Paparazzo in La Dolce Vita photograph: Cine Bazar       The common noun paparazzo and its plural form paparazzi were first used in English in the American magazine Time of 14th April 1961: Paparazzi on the Prowl ROMAN PHOTOGRAPHERS BLOCKADING SORAYA’S CAR Buzzing, hovering, darting, stinging. On Rome’s Via […]

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trivial – trivia

trivial – trivia

  Trivial Pursuit – photograph: The Telegraph       The Latin noun trivium, from the combining element tri-, three, and via, way, denoted a place where three roads meet, hence a fork in the roads, a crossroad. The adjective trivius, feminine trivia, was an epithet of the deities whose temples were erected where three […]

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sourpuss – glamour puss

sourpuss – glamour puss

    Puss [u sounded as in ‘full’]; the mouth and lips, always used in dialect in an offensive or contemptuous sense:—“What an ugly puss that fellow has.” “He had a puss on him,” i.e. he looked sour or displeased—with lips contracted. I heard one boy say to another:—“I’ll give you a skelp (blow) on […]

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new broom

new broom

  broom-besom – photograph: Etsy       A new broom is a person who, or thing which, effects fundamental or numerous alterations, especially a newly appointed person who vigorously sets about making changes in personnel, procedures, etc. The first known user of the term is Robert Sanderson (1587-1663), Bishop of Lincoln, in a sermon […]

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barbecue

barbecue

  woodcuts from Warhaftige Historia und beschreibung eyner Landtschafft der Wilden Nacketen, Grimmigen Menschfresser-Leuthen in der Newenwelt America gelegen (True Story and Description of a Country of Wild, Naked, Grim, Man-eating People in the New World, America – 1557) by the German soldier and explorer Hans Staden (circa 1525-79)     The noun barbecue is, […]

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