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‘loot’

‘loot’

  Ludewig appraises tray which newlyweds want to swap for cooker from Life, 13th September 1954       MEANINGS   – noun: goods stolen during pillaging, as in wartime, during riots, etc. – goods, money, etc., obtained illegally – verb: to pillage (a city, settlement, etc.) during war or riots – to steal (money or […]

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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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Viking

    MEANING   any of the Danes, Norwegians and Swedes who raided by sea most of northern and western Europe from the 8th to the 11th centuries, later often settling, as in parts of Britain     ORIGIN   This noun was introduced in the early 19th century by antiquaries and poets. It is […]

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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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pigeon’s milk

pigeon’s milk

    The term pigeon’s milk, also pigeon milk, denotes an imaginary substance which, as a joke, a child or gullible person may be sent to buy. The English antiquary and topographer John Brand (1744-1806) recorded it in the appendix to Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda […]

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Walker

    MEANING   Walker, more fully Hookey (also Hooky) Walker, is an exclamation expressing incredulity. It was first recorded in Lexicon Balatronicum¹. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811): Hookee Walker. An expression signifying that the story is not true, or that the thing will not occur. (¹ balatronicum: from […]

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Mrs Grundy

    MEANING   an imaginary personage who is proverbially referred to as a personification of the tyranny of social opinion in matters of conventional propriety     ORIGIN   Mrs Grundy is an unseen character in Speed the Plough, a comedy first performed in 1798, written by the English playwright Thomas Morton (1764-1838). In […]

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Mr & Mrs

    Mr and Mrs were originally the abbreviations of master and mistress, while mister and missus (also spelt missis) are the renderings of the altered pronunciation of master and mistress in Mr and Mrs. It must be noted however that, before being the rendering of the pronunciation of Mr, mister was a mere variant […]

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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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