Tag Archives: sayings-phrases

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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pigeon’s milk

pigeon’s milk

    The term pigeon’s milk, also pigeon milk, denotes an imaginary substance which, as a joke, a child or gullible person may be sent to buy. The English antiquary and topographer John Brand (1744-1806) recorded it in the appendix to Observations on popular antiquities: including the whole of Mr. Bourne’s Antiquitates vulgares, with addenda […]

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Walker

    MEANING   Walker, more fully Hookey (also Hooky) Walker, is an exclamation expressing incredulity. It was first recorded in Lexicon Balatronicum¹. A Dictionary of Buckish Slang, University Wit, and Pickpocket Eloquence (1811): Hookee Walker. An expression signifying that the story is not true, or that the thing will not occur. (¹ balatronicum: from […]

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Mrs Grundy

    MEANING   an imaginary personage who is proverbially referred to as a personification of the tyranny of social opinion in matters of conventional propriety     ORIGIN   Mrs Grundy is an unseen character in Speed the Plough, a comedy first performed in 1798, written by the English playwright Thomas Morton (1764-1838). In […]

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‘ado’

    MEANINGS   – ado: a state of agitation or fuss – without further, or more, ado: without further fuss or delay – much ado about nothing: a great deal of fuss or trouble over nothing of any significance     ORIGIN   The noun ado is from northern Middle English at do, of Scandinavian […]

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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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to busk

    MEANING   to perform music or some other entertainment in the street or other public place for voluntary donations     ORIGIN   To busk is from the obsolete French verb busquer, thus defined by Randle Cotgrave in A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues (1611): Busquer. To shift, filtch; prowle, catch […]

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blanket

    The noun blanket is from Old Northern French and Anglo-Norman forms such as blankete and blanket, composed of blanc, white, and the diminutive suffix -ette, and meaning white woollen material, blanket cloth, and blanket. (The Modern French word for blanket is couverture, meaning literally covering, from the verb couvrir, to cover. The term […]

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R.S.V.P.

R.S.V.P.

    R.S.V.P. is an initialism from French répondez s’il vous plaît (literally respond if you please), meaning please reply, used at the end of invitations to request a response. It first appeared in English in the early 19th century. For example, in Domestic Duties; or, Instructions to young married ladies, on the management of […]

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