Tag Archives: dictionaries

(with) tongue in cheek

  The phrase (with) tongue in cheek means in an ironic, or insincere, way. The Scottish author Tobias Smollett (1721-71) used to thrust one’s tongue in one’s cheek to denote a sign of contempt in his picaresque novel The Adventures of Roderick Random (1748); the hero has just captured and handed over a highwayman and returns to the coach in which he is travelling: When I had […]

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to lark about

to lark about

  skylark – photograph: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds     The phrasal verb lark about (or around) means to enjoy oneself by behaving in a playful and mischievous way. The OED (Oxford English Dictionary – 1st edition, 1902) indicates the following about the verb lark: The origin is somewhat uncertain. Possibly it […]

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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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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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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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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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beanfeast – beano

beanfeast – beano

    MEANING   (British informal): a celebration, party or other enjoyable time     ORIGIN   A beanfeast was originally an annual dinner given by employers to employees. For instance, The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle of July 1793 reported the following: Saturday July 13. A fire broke out in the rope and yarn […]

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caterpillar

    MEANING   the larva of a butterfly or moth     ORIGIN   First attested in the mid-15th century, the noun caterpillar is probably from catepeluse and variants, which were the Anglo-Norman forms of the Old French feminine noun chatepelose and variants, meaning literally hairy she-cat. In his textbook Lesclarcissement de la langue […]

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eggcorn

eggcorn

  photograph: Launceston Parish Wildlife Project       MEANING   An eggcorn is a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one which sounds very similar, as in to tow the line instead of to toe the line.     ORIGIN […]

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