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the slough of despond

the slough of despond

  The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World, to That which is to come Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream Wherein is Discovered, The Manner of his setting out, His Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Countrey (1679 edition) – image: The British Library       MEANING   a state of extreme […]

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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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according to Gunter

according to Gunter

  The Western Daily Press (Bristol, England) – Friday 14th October 1927       MEANING   correctly; reliably (synonym: according to Cocker)     ORIGIN   Edmund Gunter (1581-1626) was a distinguished English mathematician who improved or invented several instruments which bear his name: – Gunter’s chain: a chain of 4 poles’ length used in […]

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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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Atlantic

    The adjective Atlantic originally referred to Mount Atlas*, on which the heavens were fabled to rest. It was hence applied to the sea near the western shore of Africa, and afterwards extended to the whole ocean lying between Europe and Africa on the east and America on the west. * The Atlas Mountains […]

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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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