Tag Archives: law
to return to one’s muttons

to return to one’s muttons

  The court scene - woodcut from the edition of La Farce de Maistre Pathelin by Pierre Levet, circa 1489       MEANING   to return to the matter in hand     ORIGIN   This phrase is from French revenons à nos moutons (let us return to our sheep), which is said to have […]

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long (or strong) arm

    MEANING   far-reaching power or influence     ORIGIN   The earlier expression long hands was originally after classical Latin an nescis longas regibus esse manus?, used by the Roman poet Ovid (43 BC – circa 17 AD) in the epistolary poems Epistulæ Heroidum, (Letters of Heroines). While her husband, King Menelaus, is away, Helen […]

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to boycott

    MEANING   to refuse to have dealings with a person, organisation, etc., or to refuse to buy a product, as a protest or means of coercion     ORIGIN   This verb is from the name of Captain Charles C. Boycott (1832-97), Irish land agent for the Earl of Erne, County Mayo, Ireland, […]

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mare’s nest

    MEANINGS   – a discovery imagined to be important but proving worthless – a disordered situation     ORIGIN   This expression is first recorded in Galateo of Maister Iohn Della Casa, Archebishop of Beneuenta. Or rather, A treatise of the maners and behauiours, it behoueth a man to vse and eschewe, in his familiar […]

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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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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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to be part and parcel of

    MEANING   to be an essential feature or element of     ORIGIN   Derived from Anglo-Norman forms such as parcele and parcell and Old and Middle French parcelle, parcel has as primary meaning small part of a whole. This noun is from an unattested post-classical Latin particella, part, portion, alteration of classical Latin particula, […]

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one over the eight

    I suppose it wasn’t often that the boys of Market Snodsbury Grammar School came across a man public-spirited enough to call their head master a silly ass, and they showed their appreciation in no uncertain manner. Gussie may have been one over the eight, but as far as the majority of those present […]

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to take the mickey

    MEANING   British (informal): to take the mickey (also micky, mick, mike) out of someone: to tease or ridicule someone     PROBABLE ORIGIN   Rhyming slang is a type of slang that replaces words with rhyming words or phrases, typically with the rhyming element omitted. For example apples, short for apples and pears, […]

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hooligan

hooligan

  A member of the Hooligan gang, John Darcy, aged 19, fatally stabbed Henry Mappin, a passer-by, in Oakley Street, Lambeth, London, on 15th July 1898.       MEANING   a rough lawless young person     ORIGIN   This word first appeared in print in 1894 in newspaper police-court reports as a qualifier, […]

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