Tag Archives: law

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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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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auto-da-fé

auto-da-fé

  Auto de fe (1853), by Eugenio Lucas Velázquez (1817-70)       This noun is from the obsolete Portuguese form auto da fé (now auto de fé), literally meaning act of faith, composed, after Spanish auto de fe, of the noun auto, meaning public ceremony, judicial decree, writ, the preposition da, of the, and the […]

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ribald

    MEANING   (adjective): referring to sexual matters in an amusingly rude or irreverent way     ORIGIN   This word is from Anglo-Norman and Old and Middle French forms such as ribalde, ribaut, ribauld, ribault, (Modern French ribaud), derived from the Old French verb riber, to give oneself up to pleasure. This verb […]

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hackney carriage

hackney carriage

  an ambling horse miniature from a 13th-century Apocalypse manuscript: The 3rd seal, the black horse       MEANING   (British): the official term for a taxi     ORIGIN   The common noun hackney was originally elliptical for Hackney horse, a horse of Hackney, a town in Middlesex where horses were pastured. (It is […]

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