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(with) tongue in cheek

  The phrase (with) tongue in cheek means in an ironic, or insincere, way. The Scottish author Tobias Smollett (1721-71) used to thrust one’s tongue in one’s cheek to denote a sign of contempt in his picaresque novel The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748); the hero has just captured and handed over a highwayman and returns to the coach in which he is travelling: When I had […]

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Kindertransport

Kindertransport

  Let them smile and play again Save 1,000 Refugee Children on ‘MOTHERS’ DAY’ MAY 20TH IN SHEFFIELD ‘Mothers’ Day’ is the day appointed for a great and special effort in support of the Lord Baldwin Fund for Refugees—to rescue another 500 Christian and 500 Jewish children. Please do your very best to make your local […]

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heart of oak

heart of oak

  A New Song, sung by Mr. Champness in Harlequin’s Invasion from The Universal Magazine of Knowledge and Pleasure – March 1760     The phrase heart of oak denotes a person with a strong, courageous nature, especially a brave and loyal soldier or sailor, and a courageous or valorous spirit. Its literal meaning is […]

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incunabula

incunabula

  Incunabula Typographiæ (1688), by the Dutch bibliographer Cornelius van Beughem (1639-after 1717)     The word incunabula, singular incunabulum, designates the books printed during the earliest period of typography, that is to say, from the invention of the art of typographic printing in Europe in the 1450s to the end of the 15th century. […]

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beyond the pale

beyond the pale

    MEANING   outside the limits of social convention     ORIGIN   The primary meanings of the noun pale are a wooden stake or post used with others to form a fence and a wooden fence made of stakes driven into the ground. This word appeared in the late 14th century and is […]

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gas and gaiters

gas and gaiters

  Mysterious appearance of the gentleman in the small-clothes illustration by “PHIZ” for the first edition of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby     “It’s all right, Bertie.” “She loves you still?” “Yes.” “Good.” “She wept on my chest.” “Fine.” “And said she was sorry she had been cross. I said ‘There, there!’ […]

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to boycott

    MEANING   to refuse to have dealings with a person, organisation, etc., or to refuse to buy a product, as a protest or means of coercion     ORIGIN   This verb is from the name of Captain Charles C. Boycott (1832-97), Irish land agent for the Earl of Erne, County Mayo, Ireland, […]

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mare’s nest

    MEANINGS   – a discovery imagined to be important but proving worthless – a disordered situation     ORIGIN   This expression is first recorded in Galateo of Maister Iohn Della Casa, Archebishop of Beneuenta. Or rather, A treatise of the maners and behauiours, it behoueth a man to vse and eschewe, in his familiar […]

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tycoon

    MEANING   a wealthy, powerful person in business or industry     ORIGIN   This word is from Japanese taikun, itself from Chinese ta, great, and chün, ruler. Tycoon was originally the title by which the shogun of Japan was described to foreigners from the mid-19th century to the end of the Tokugawa […]

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to send to Coventry

    MEANING   to ostracise or ignore     ORIGIN   Coventry is a city in the west Midlands of England, historically in Warwickshire. In Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1870 edition), Ebenezer Cobham Brewer (1810-97) gave the following origin of the phrase: This is a military term, according to Messrs. Chambers (“Cyclopædia”): The […]

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