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palaver

    MEANING   prolonged and tedious fuss or discussion     ORIGIN   This noun is first recorded in the early 18th century. Probably via early West African Pidgin, it is from Portuguese palavra, word, speech, from Latin parabola, meaning comparison, and in ecclesiastical Latin allegorical relation, from Greek παραβολή (= parabole), meaning, primarily, […]

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martinet

    MEANING   a person who maintains strict discipline, especially in a military force     ORIGIN   This noun is from the name of Jean Martinet (died 1672), whose biography is as follows in A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East (2010), edited by Spencer C. […]

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to busk

    MEANING   to perform music or some other entertainment in the street or other public place for voluntary donations     ORIGIN   To busk is from the obsolete French verb busquer, thus defined by Randle Cotgrave in A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611): Busquer. To shift, filtch; prowle, catch […]

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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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to intensify

    MEANING   to render intense, to give intensity to     ORIGIN   The English poet, critic and philosopher Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) coined this verb in Biographia Literaria; or, Biographical sketches of my literary life and opinions (1817): The true practical general law of association is this; that whatever makes certain parts […]

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witticism

    MEANING   a witty remark     ORIGIN   John Dryden (1631-1700), English poet, playwright and critic, coined witticism from the adjective witty on the pattern of criticism in The Authors Apology for Heroique Poetry; and Poetique Licence, an essay introducing The State of Innocence and Fall of Man (1677), an opera written […]

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péniche

péniche

  ‘péniches’ in Paris – photograph: JLPC/Wikimedia Commons       Nowadays, the French feminine noun péniche denotes a barge. It was borrowed in the early 19th century from English pinnace with the following English meanings: – a small rowed boat forming part of the equipment of a warship or other large vessel; – a small light vessel […]

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‘wasp’

‘wasp’

  image from Le Corset à travers les âges (The Corset through the ages – 1893), written by Ernest Léoty and illustrated by Saint-Elme Gautier     MEANING   a social winged insect which has a narrow waist and a sting and is typically yellow with black stripes     ORIGIN   Of Germanic origin, the noun […]

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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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R.S.V.P.

R.S.V.P.

    R.S.V.P. is an initialism from French répondez s’il vous plaît (literally respond if you please), meaning please reply, used at the end of invitations to request a response. It first appeared in English in the early 19th century. For example, in Domestic Duties; or, Instructions to young married ladies, on the management of […]

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