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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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blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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‘Wasp’

    MEANING   (often used with mild derision): a person who belongs to, or is thought of, as being part of a white, upper middle-class, northern European, Protestant group that dominates economic, political and cultural activity in the USA       ORIGIN   This acronym from white Anglo-Saxon Protestant is first recorded in […]

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to be part and parcel of

    MEANING   to be an essential feature or element of     ORIGIN   Derived from Anglo-Norman forms such as parcele and parcell and Old and Middle French parcelle, parcel has as primary meaning small part of a whole. This noun is from an unattested post-classical Latin particella, part, portion, alteration of classical Latin particula, […]

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doryphore

doryphore

  “Death to the Doryphores” is slogan of schoolchildren off for potato-bug catching. In France “doryphores” is nickname for food-grabbing Germans, who love potatoes. from Vichy vs. France, by Richard de Rochemont – magazine Life, 1st September 1941       The French noun doryphore denotes the Colorado beetle, a yellow-and-black beetle native to America, […]

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comrade

comrade

        In Spanish, from the noun cámara (from Latin camera), meaning a chamber, a room, was derived the collective feminine noun camarada, a military term attested in the mid-16th century in the sense of chambered or cabined (company). (The French feminine noun chambrée, from chambre, room, has the same meaning.) In Spanish, […]

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Morton’s fork

    MEANING   a practical dilemma, especially one in which both choices are equally undesirable     ORIGIN   John Morton (circa 1420-1500), Archbishop of Canterbury, cardinal and Lord Chancellor to King Henry VII, is traditionally believed to have developed a method of levying forced loans by arguing that those who were obviously rich […]

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a stiff upper lip

a stiff upper lip

  first edition cover of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), by the English author P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) – image: Goldsboro Books     MEANING   a quality of uncomplaining stoicism     ORIGIN   The word lip occurs in phrases referring to certain actions regarded as indicative of particular states of feeling. For example, […]

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to burke

to burke

      MEANING   – to murder in such a way as to leave no marks on the body, usually by suffocation – figuratively: to get rid of, silence, or suppress     ORIGIN   While some chose the profession of body-snatching, for others it was a more accidental career. William Burke and William […]

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