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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hot dog

hot dog

  Greenwich Village Fair – “Hot Dogs” – June 1917 photograph: Library of Congress       In US slang, the noun dog has been used to denote sausage meat and a sausage since the late 19th century. It is first recorded in Frank Leslie’s Comic Almanac for the year 1873, published in New York: […]

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to keep up with the Joneses

to keep up with the Joneses

  from Keeping Up With The Joneses (1920), by ‘Pop’ Momand       MEANING   If you say that someone is keeping up with the Joneses, you mean that they are doing something in order to show that they have as much money as other people, rather than because they really want to do it.   […]

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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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Indian summer – l’été sauvage

Indian summer – l’été sauvage

  St. John de Crèvecœur, after the portrait by Vallière, 1786         MEANING   a period of unusually calm dry warm weather, often accompanied by a hazy atmosphere, occurring in late autumn in the northern United States and Canada hence a similar period of unseasonably warm autumnal weather elsewhere     ORIGIN […]

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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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