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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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bully

    MEANING   a person who hurts, persecutes or intimidates weaker people     ORIGIN   One noun bully was a term of endearment and familiarity originally applied to either sex. It is first recorded in A comedy concernynge thre lawes, of nature Moses, & Christ, corrupted by the sodomytes. Pharysees and Papystes (1548?), […]

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babblative

    MEANING   having a tendency to babble; loquacious     ORIGIN   This adjective is composed of the verb babble and the suffix -ative. The English suffix -ative is from the French -atif (masculine), -ative (feminine), from the Latin -ativus, consisting of the adjectival suffix -ivus appended to past participial stems in -at- […]

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one’s best bib and tucker

    MEANING   one’s smartest clothes     ORIGIN   This phrase was originally used only of women’s clothes. A bib was a piece of cloth, usually the upper part of an apron, worn between throat and waist. A tucker was a piece of lace or linen worn in or around the top of […]

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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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‘fang’

‘fang’

  Prototype for RT Series Nota Type IV ‘Fang’ sports racing car, Nota Engineering, Parramatta (Australia), 1971 Chris Buckingham (1921-2015), who introduced low-cost motor sport into Australia, built this prototype Nota Type IV which he named the ‘Fang’. Source: Guy Buckingham and Australian Motor Racing, by Margaret Simpson – Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, […]

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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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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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