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long (or strong) arm

    MEANING   far-reaching power or influence     ORIGIN   The earlier expression long hands was originally after classical Latin an nescis longas regibus esse manus?, used by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – circa 17 AD) in the epistolary poems Epistulæ Heroidum, (Letters of Heroines). While her husband, King Menelaus, is away, Helen […]

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pismirism

    MEANING   hoarding of money; miserliness     ORIGIN   This rare noun is first recorded in the column Table Talk of The Daily News (London) of Saturday 22nd December 1906: Our Post Office spoils us. It takes a great deal of trouble for the public that it need not take, and that other Post […]

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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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‘Moab’

‘Moab’

  detail of the plan of the College of St Mary of Winchester, from School-Life at Winchester College (1866), by Robert Blachford Mansfield     In the Book of Psalms, 60:8 and 108:9, the subjugated nation of Moab is compared to a vessel used for washing the feet: Psalm 60 (King James Version – 1611) […]

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costermonger

    MEANING   a person who sells goods, especially fruit and vegetables, from a barrow     ORIGIN   A costermonger was originally an apple-seller, a fruiterer. The word is composed of costard, meaning a kind of apple of large size, and monger, denoting a dealer or trader in a specified commodity. The noun […]

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blues

blues

     title page of I Got the Blues (1908), by Antonio Maggio         MEANING   The blues is a melancholic music of black American folk origin, usually employing a basic 12-bar chorus, the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords, frequent minor intervals, and blue notes. It originated in the southern United States […]

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island – aisle

    The noun island is from Old English íegland, ígland, a pleonastic compound of íeg, íg, meaning isle, and land. The literal meaning of íeg is watered place. This word is related to Old English éa, water, river, and a compound frequent in Old English was éaland, literally water-land, river-land. Old English éa is related […]

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porridge

    MEANING   a dish consisting of oatmeal or another meal or cereal boiled in water or milk     ORIGIN   The noun porridge is an alteration of pottage and had originally the same meaning: a thick soup made by stewing vegetables, herbs or meat, often thickened with barley, pulses, etc. The change […]

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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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kingdom come

    MEANING   the next world     ORIGIN   In the gospel of Matthew, 6:9-13, Jesus teaches the Lord’s Prayer to his disciples: King James Version (1611): 9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. 10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, […]

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