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this mortal coil

    MEANING   the troubles and activities of this mortal life     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary of the English Language (1755), the English lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-84) thus defined the noun coil: Tumult; turmoil; bustle; stir; hurry; confusion. This obsolete noun is probably from Old French acueil (Modern French accueil), meaning reception, encounter. […]

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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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maudlin

maudlin

   Mary Magdalene kneeling within a Stabat Mater scene Kreuzigung (Crucifixion – 1868), by Gabriel Wüger (1829-92)       MEANING   foolishly tearful or sentimental     ORIGIN   In the Christian Church, the Magdalene designates Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus, who cured her of evil spirits. She witnessed the Crucifixion and Jesus […]

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rhyparographer

    MEANING   a person who paints or writes about distasteful or sordid subjects     ORIGIN   The noun rhyparographer, or rhyparograph, is from Latin rhyparographos, meaning painter of low or sordid subjects. This Latin noun is from ancient Greek ῥυπαρός (= rhyparos), meaning dirty, filthy, and -γραϕος (= -graphos), one who writes, portrays […]

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madeleine

madeleine

  photograph: allrecipes.com     In French cookery, the feminine noun madeleine denotes a small rich cake baked in a fluted tin, which gives it a shell-like shape. It is first recorded in the plural as Magdeleines, in a list of petits fours published in Almanach des gourmands (1807). It was originally gâteau à la […]

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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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paraphernalia

    MEANING   miscellaneous articles or equipment     ORIGIN   This noun is from Medieval Latin paraphernalia, short for paraphernalia bona, meaning married woman’s property. This was a noun use of the neuter plural of the Medieval Latin adjective paraphernalis, based on Greek παράφερνα (= parapherna), neuter plural meaning goods which a bride […]

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