Tag Archives: Samuel Pepys

Miss & Ms

    The word miss, used as a title prefixed to the name of an unmarried woman or girl and as a form of address, was originally short for mistress. It first appeared as mis, perhaps a graphic abbreviation of the form mistris. (Similarly, Mr and Mrs are abbreviations of master and mistress.) The noun […]

Continue Reading

sparrowgrass

    MEANING   asparagus     ORIGIN   The Latin noun asparagus is a borrowing from Greek ἀσπάραγος (= asparagos). The Medieval Latin form was often sparagus, whence English sperage (also sparage, after smallage, wild celery), which was the common name in the 16th and early 17th centuries. Meanwhile, the influence of herbalists and […]

Continue Reading

spick and span

    MEANING   extremely neat and clean     ORIGIN   The adjective span new, meaning perfectly new, was derived from Old Norse spán-nýr, meaning literally chip new (cf. German Span, chip, shaving), the metaphor being as new as a freshly cut wooden chip as in the obsolete English adjective split new. The adjective […]

Continue Reading
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 […]

Continue Reading
cabal

cabal

  Charles II (circa 1653) by Philippe de Champaigne       MEANINGS a secret or exclusive set of people a small group of intriguers, especially one formed for political purposes a secret plot, especially a political one     ORIGIN   The English word Kabbala, also spelt Kabbala, Cabbala, Cabala, or Qabalah, which dates […]

Continue Reading
cockpit

cockpit

  THE BOREL HYDROPLANE. One of the first hydro-monoplanes adopted by the Government. Driven by an 80 h.p. Gnome engine mounted in front of the fuselage on double bearings. Floats sprung at the rear on rubber shock absorbers. Chassis built of streamlined steel tubes. Pilot and passenger in separate cockpits arranged tandem fashion. A small […]

Continue Reading
press gang

press gang

    Press gang – caricature – 1780        To press-gang someone into is to force someone to do something.   Historically, a press gang was a body of men employed, under the command of an officer, to enlist men forcibly into service in the navy or army. Hence the verb press-gang, meaning […]

Continue Reading
jackanapes

jackanapes

      Heraldic arms of William de la Pole       A jackanapes is a cheeky or impertinent person, but the word used to designate a tame monkey.   Its origin is uncertain. It first appeared as a derisive nickname of William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk, whose badge was a clog […]

Continue Reading
crow-keeper

crow-keeper

    Wheat field with crows (1890) – Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)     Of a Crow-keeper There be many called crow-keepers; but, indeed, There’s no crow-keeper but thou in time of seed; Where others keep crows out, like starvelings forlorn, To keep crows in plight, thou keepest crows in the corn. John Heywood – […]

Continue Reading
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 […]

Continue Reading

Unblog.fr | Créer un blog | Annuaire | Signaler un abus