Tag Archives: Walter Scott
the last straw

the last straw

  Thomas Hobbes       The last (or final) straw is a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable. This is from the phrase the last straw that breaks the (laden) camel’s back, a reference to the carrying of […]

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thick as thieves

    Among other figurative meanings, the adjective thick has the sense of close in confidence and association, intimate, familiar. In Literary Anecdotes of the Eighteenth Century, published in 1812, John Nichols quoted Edmund Law (1703-87), Bishop of Carlisle: “Yes,” said he, “we begin now, though contrary to my expectation, and without my seeking, to be […]

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the apple of one’s eye – la prunelle de ses yeux

the apple of one’s eye – la prunelle de ses yeux

    sloes – prunelles       The apple of one’s eye is a person or thing that is very precious or much loved.   For example, the Scottish poet Michael Bruce wrote, in Lochleven (about 1767):                         His sole delight, To tend his daughter, beautiful and young; To watch her paths; to fill […]

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simnel cake

simnel cake

          Mothering Sunday is Mid-Lent Sunday (i.e. the fourth Sunday of Lent). It was also known as Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed that day.   The food item specially associated with Mothering Sunday is the simnel cake – and Mothering Sunday was also sometimes called Simnel […]

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freelance

freelance

    The term freelance appeared, as two words and in the sense of a medieval mercenary, in Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe (1819). In chapter 34, Scott wrote: “It is truth itself”, said De Bracy. “I was his prisoner, and spoke with him”. “With Richard Plantagenet, sayest thou?” continued Fitzurse. “With Richard Plantagenet”, replied De […]

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barmy

barmy

    Barm is the froth that forms on the top of fermenting malt liquors. It is used to leaven bread, and to cause fermentation in other liquors. This is why the literal senses of the adjective barmy are: – of, full of, or covered with, barm, – frothing. Therefore, barmy came to be applied […]

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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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