Tag Archives: sayings-phrases
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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the slough of despond

the slough of despond

  The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World, to That which is to come Delivered under the Similitude of a Dream Wherein is Discovered, The Manner of his setting out, His Dangerous Journey, and Safe Arrival at the Desired Countrey (1679 edition) – image: The British Library       MEANING   a state of extreme […]

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all Sir Garnet

all Sir Garnet

  Sir Garnet Wolseley from The Illustrated Police News (London) of Saturday 21st June 1879       MEANING   highly satisfactory; all right     ORIGIN   This phrase is from the name of Sir Garnet Wolseley (1833-1913), field-marshal and commander-in-chief of the British army, who conducted several successful military expeditions in the Sudan […]

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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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according to Gunter

according to Gunter

  The Western Daily Press (Bristol, England) – Friday 14th October 1927       MEANING   correctly; reliably (synonym: according to Cocker)     ORIGIN   Edmund Gunter (1581-1626) was a distinguished English mathematician who improved or invented several instruments which bear his name: – Gunter’s chain: a chain of 4 poles’ length used in […]

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according to Cocker

    MEANING   correctly; reliably (synonym: according to Gunter)     ORIGIN   Edward Cocker (1631-75), an English engraver who also taught writing and arithmetic, was the reputed author of the popular Cocker’s Arithmetick: Being a Plain and familiar Method, suitable to the meanest Capacity, for the full Understanding of that incomparable Art, as […]

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according to Hoyle

according to Hoyle

  autograph signature of Edmond Hoyle in a copy of A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist (1743 edition)         MEANING   according to plan or the rules     ORIGIN   In Pirates, Autographs, and a Bankruptcy: ‘A Short Treatise on the Game of Whist’ by Edmond Hoyle, Gentleman (published […]

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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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one’s best bib and tucker

    MEANING   one’s smartest clothes     ORIGIN   This phrase was originally used only of women’s clothes. A bib was a piece of cloth, usually the upper part of an apron, worn between throat and waist. A tucker was a piece of lace or linen worn in or around the top of […]

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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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