Tag Archives: Geoffrey Chaucer

according to Cocker

    MEANING   correctly; reliably (synonym: according to Gunter)     ORIGIN   Edward Cocker (1631-75), an English engraver who also taught writing and arithmetic, was the reputed author of the popular Cocker’s Arithmetick: Being a Plain and familiar Method, suitable to the meanest Capacity, for the full Understanding of that incomparable Art, as […]

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pismirism

    MEANING   hoarding of money; miserliness     ORIGIN   This rare noun is first recorded in the column Table Talk of The Daily News (London) of Saturday 22nd December 1906: Our Post Office spoils us. It takes a great deal of trouble for the public that it need not take, and that other Post […]

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blues

blues

     title page of I Got the Blues (1908), by Antonio Maggio         MEANING   The blues is a melancholic music of black American folk origin, usually employing a basic 12-bar chorus, the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords, frequent minor intervals, and blue notes. It originated in the southern United States […]

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paramour

    MEANING   a lover, especially the illicit partner of a married person     ORIGIN   Derived from Old French par amour, par amur, meaning by, or through, love, the English adverb par amour, later written as one word, appeared around 1250 in Floris and Blancheflour in the phrase to love par amour, […]

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galaxy

galaxy

  the Milky Way – photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Steve Jurvetson       The noun galaxy appeared in Middle English in the sense of the Milky Way, the diffuse band of light stretching across the night sky that consists of millions of faint stars, nebulae, etc., within our Galaxy. The first known user of this word […]

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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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jeopardy

jeopardy

  Jeopardy. This word is supposed to be derived from ‘j’ai perdu’, or ‘jeu perdu’. Skinner and Junius. Hazard; danger; Peril. A word not now in use. A Dictionary of the English Language (1785 edition), by Samuel Johnson (1709-84) There are two errors: the noun jeopardy is not from French j’ai perdu (I have lost) or jeu perdu […]

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‘Noel’

      MEANINGS   – Noel, or Noël: Christmas, especially on Christmas cards and as a refrain in carols – noel, or noël: a Christmas carol     ORIGIN   This noun is from Anglo-Norman and Middle French forms such as Noël, Noel (modern French Noël), variants of forms such as Naël, Nael, first attested […]

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on the qui vive

on the qui vive

  Chaucer reciting – early 15th-century manuscript of Troilus and Criseyde (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)       MEANING   on the alert, attentive     ORIGIN   The French phrase qui vive ? literally means (long) live who?. It is a sentry’s challenge, intended to discover to which party the person challenged belongs, with […]

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nightmare

nightmare

  Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825) – Der Nachtmahr (1790)       The noun mare, which appeared in early Old English, denoted a spirit believed to produce a feeling of suffocation in a sleeping person or animal, hence also a feeling of suffocation experienced during sleep, and an oppressive or terrifying dream. Unrelated to mare in […]

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