Tag Archives: discriminations
pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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to sit below the salt

to sit below the salt

  The Salt-cellars are of singular form and rich workmanship. The most noticeable is—the Golden Salt-cellar of State, which is of pure gold, richly adorned with jewels, and grotesque figures in chased work. Its form is castellated : and the receptacles for the salt are formed by the removal of the tops of the turrets. […]

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mari complaisant – wittol

mari complaisant – wittol

  Cuckoos are famed for laying their eggs in host species’ nests, leaving unwitting “foster” birds to raise their chicks. Photograph from Cuckoos are no match for local reed warblers (BBC).       The French expression un mari complaisant, which literally means an accommodating husband, denotes a husband tolerant of his wife’s adultery. This sense […]

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‘pleb’

‘pleb’

  MEANING   informal and derogatory: an ordinary person, especially one from the lower social classes     ORIGIN   The noun pleb, which appeared in the late 18th century, is a shortened form of plebeian. The plural plebs, meaning the common people, dates back to the late 16th century. It is from Latin plebs/plebis, […]

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blue blood

blue blood

  The Third Estate carrying the Clergy and the Nobility on its back (late 18th-century French print) – Bibliothèque nationale de France A faut esperer q’eu.s jeu la finira bentot (= Il faut espérer que ce jeu-là finira bientôt, You should hope that this game will be over soon)       After the Reconquista, […]

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ostracism

ostracism

  ostrakon against the Athenian statesman Themistocles (circa 528-462 BC) photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Giovanni Dall’Orto       MEANING   Exclusion from a society or group     ORIGIN   In Athens and other ancient Greek cities, ostracism was a political measure by which citizens whose power or influence was considered dangerous to the state were […]

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nincompoop

nincompoop

  P. G. Wodehouse in 1904     Oh, Bertie, if ever I called you a brainless poop who ought to be given a scholarship at some good lunatic asylum, I take back the words. P. G. Wodehouse - Jeeves and the Feudal Spirit (1954)     MEANING   A nincompoop is a stupid or foolish person. This noun […]

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pumpernickel

pumpernickel

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Matt314       MEANING   Dark, dense German bread made from coarsely ground wholemeal rye.   The word is first recorded in English in The German Spy: or, Familiar Letters from A Gentleman on his Travels thro’ Germany to His Friend in England (1738) by the English writer and surveyor Thomas […]

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to blackball

to blackball

  Mary Delany (née Granville) – 1782 – by John Opie photograph: National Portrait Gallery         MEANINGS   – To reject a candidate applying to become a member of a club or other society by means of a secret ballot. – To exclude someone from society, a profession, etc.; to ostracise.   […]

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in someone’s good books – blacklist

in someone’s good books – blacklist

  The Black Book of the Exchequer photograph: The National Archives/History of government         The earliest black books were record books or ledgers usually relating to finance or administration, and the adjective seems to have had no other significance than to indicate the colour of the binding. For example, in a letter […]

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