Tag Archives: slang

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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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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palaver

    MEANING   prolonged and tedious fuss or discussion     ORIGIN   This noun is first recorded in the early 18th century. Probably via early West African Pidgin, it is from Portuguese palavra, word, speech, from Latin parabola, meaning comparison, and in ecclesiastical Latin allegorical relation, from Greek παραβολή (= parabole), meaning, primarily, […]

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hackneyed – hack

      MEANINGS   – hackneyed, adjective: (of phrases, fashions, etc.) used so often as to be trite, dull and stereotyped – hack, noun: a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work     ORIGIN   The noun hackney, which is first recorded in the late 13th century, originally denoted a horse of middle […]

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on the horns of a dilemma

on the horns of a dilemma

  St Jerome in his study (1480), by Domenico Ghirlandaio         MEANING   faced with a decision involving equally unfavourable alternatives (also read Morton’s fork)     ORIGIN   In logic, the term dilemma denotes a form of argument forcing an opponent to choose either of two equally unfavourable alternatives. The Latin […]

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to chew the fat (or the rag)

to chew the fat (or the rag)

  Charley Tell-Tale Keeping the P. P. Gents on the broad Grin with his laughable Anecdotes illustration for Anecdotes (original and selected) of the Turf, the Chase, the Ring, and the Stage (1827), by Pierce Egan       MEANING   to chat in a leisurely and prolonged way     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary […]

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holy-stone

holy-stone

  In nautical slang, a holy-stone was a piece of sandstone used by sailors for scouring the decks of ships. The terms bible and prayer-book were also used, as Admiral William Henry Smyth indicated in The Sailor’s Word-Book: an alphabetical digest of nautical terms (1867): – Bible. A hand-axe. Also, a squared piece of freestone to […]

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‘bumf’

‘bumf’

  François Rabelais       MEANINGS   toilet paper, hence, derogatively, superfluous documents, forms, publicity material, etc.     ORIGIN   This British noun is a late-19th-century abbreviation of bum-fodder. The Germanic noun fodder, related to food and forage, appeared around 1000 in the sense of food in general, and food for livestock in […]

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fig leaf

fig leaf

  portion from Adam and Eve (1538), by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553)       MEANING   A thing intended to conceal a difficulty or embarrassment     ORIGIN   It is an allusion to the Book of Genesis, 3:7. The serpent has just convinced Eve to eat the forbidden fruit: 6 When the […]

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muggins

muggins

  a Toby jug by Ralph Wood the Younger (1748-95) photograph: Victoria and Albert Museum     MEANING   A muggins is a foolish and gullible person. The word is often used humorously to refer to oneself.     ORIGIN   In colloquial usage since the mid-19th century, this word is perhaps a use of […]

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