Tag Archives: Piers the Plowman
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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cockney

cockney

  Cheapside and Bow Church – 1837 image: FamilySearch/Nathan W. Murphy       MEANING   The noun cockney was thus defined by Nathan Bailey in An Universal Etymological English Dictionary (1731 edition): A Nick-name given to one who is born and bred in the City of London, or within the Sound of Bow Bell*; […]

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love (nil)

love (nil)

  Samuel Butler attributed to Pieter Borsseler – circa 1665 National Portrait Gallery     In various sports such as tennis and squash, love is used in the sense of a score of zero, nil, in expressions indicating the score of two contestants, for example fifteen love, six love and love-all (no score yet on […]

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to heap coals of fire on someone’s head

to heap coals of fire on someone’s head

  Elizabeth Gaskell by George Richmond – 1851     To heap coals of fire on a person’s head is to cause a person to feel remorse or regret, especially by responding to evil or unkind behaviour with kindness or benevolence. The scriptural origin is an injunction to do good to one’s enemies to make […]

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lubber

lubber

    Nowadays, lubber is short for landlubber, which designates a person unfamiliar with the sea or sailing. But the original meaning of lubber was a big, clumsy, stupid fellow, especially one who lives in idleness. According to an unconvincing etymology, this noun is from Old French lobeur, the agent of the verb lober, meaning […]

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mum’s the word

mum’s the word

    Be like Dad – Keep Mum! Careless talk costs lives! a 1940-42 British poster (source: East Carolina University - http://digital.lib.ecu.edu/10976)           To keep mum is to remain silent, especially so as not to reveal a secret. And mum’s the word, as a request or warning, means say nothing; do not […]

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Lollard

Lollard

    John Wycliffe   John Wycliffe, or Wyclif, (1330?-84) was an English religious reformer. He criticized the wealth and power of the Church and upheld the Bible as the sole guide for doctrine. Wycliffe instituted the first English translation of the complete Bible. His teachings, regarded as precursors of the Reformation, were disseminated by itinerant preachers, contemptibly called Lollards. The Lollards believed that […]

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handicap

handicap

  A contraction of hand in cap, the word handicap dates back to the mid-17th century, and was originally the name of a betting game in which players put forfeit money in a cap or bag and then drew from it.   The game was described by J. S. Coyne in Notes and Queries, dated […]

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