Tag Archives: dogs
beyond the pale

beyond the pale

    MEANING   outside the limits of social convention     ORIGIN   The primary meanings of the noun pale are a wooden stake or post used with others to form a fence and a wooden fence made of stakes driven into the ground. This word appeared in the late 14th century and is […]

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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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one’s pigeon

  The development of trading contacts between Britain and China led to the emergence in 19th-century China of a trading language consisting of basic English and some Chinese grammatical forms. In this hybrid language, pidgin was derived from, and originally meant, business. (The phonetic development was perhaps via an intermediate form /pidginiss/ (with replacement of […]

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surly

    MEANING   bad-tempered and unfriendly     ORIGIN   This word was originally a variant of the obsolete and rare adjective sirly, composed of the noun sir and the suffix -ly, and meaning sir-like, lordly, hence haughty, imperious (it is similar to German herrisch, imperious, from Herr, lord, sir). The word sirly is first recorded, used […]

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the dog’s letter

the dog’s letter

  Daß Narrenschyff ad Narragoniam by Sebastian Brant       The dog’s letter is a name for the letter R, from its resemblance in sound to the snarl of a dog. It was so named after Latin canina litera, used by the Roman poet Persius (Aulus Persius Flaccus – 34-62) in his first Satire: […]

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Derby

Derby

  recruitment poster for the Derby scheme       The Derby is an annual flat race for three-year-old horses, founded in 1780 by the twelfth Earl of Derby (1752-1834), and run on Epsom Downs, in Surrey, England. The result of the first Derby, which took place on Thursday 4th May, was published in the London […]

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dog in the manger

dog in the manger

  The Dog in the Manger, from The Fables of Æsop selected, told anew and their history traced (1894), by Joseph Jacobs – illustrated by Richard Heighway       MEANING   A person who prevents others from having or using things even though he or she does not need them     ORIGIN   […]

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give a dog a bad name

give a dog a bad name

  John Ray (1627-1705) by unknown artist – after 1680 photograph: National Portrait Gallery     A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold. Old Testament, Proverbs, 22:1 (King James Version – 1611)     The catchphrase give a dog a bad name means […]

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February

February

      February is from classical Latin Februārius, a noun use of the adjective in mēnsis Februārius (mēnsis = month). This adjective is from the plural noun februa (singular februum), meaning means of purification, expiatory offerings. The Roman festival of purification and expiation was held on the 15th of this month. The origin of […]

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Yorkshire tyke

Yorkshire tyke

  The Trial of the Notorious Highwayman Richard Turpin Thomas Kyll’s pamphlet, published 10 days after Turpin’s execution on 7th April 1739, provides an eye-witness account of the trial.       Yorkshire tyke, or simply tyke, is used as a nickname for a person from Yorkshire.   The noun tyke is from Old Norse tík, […]

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