Tag Archives: Walter Scott
hobby

hobby

      According to one theory, the noun hobby, in its original sense of a small horse or pony, is from the French noun of same meaning formerly spelt hobin, obin, etc., now aubin. This theory says that this noun is from the French verb hober, to move, derived from the verb hobeler, to […]

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slogan

slogan

  The Death of Chatterton (1856), by Henry Wallis (1830-1916)         A slogan was originally a war cry or battle cry employed by Scottish Highlanders or Borderers, or by the native Irish, usually consisting of a personal surname or the name of a gathering-place. The word is from Gaelic sluagh-ghairm, composed of […]

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a bite at the cherry

a bite at the cherry

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Benjamint444     MEANING   an attempt or opportunity to do something     ORIGIN   As B. A. Phytian explains in A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), this is a curious development from the original meaning, which implied over-fussiness, squeamishness or even hypocrisy. A cherry is of course easily […]

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the road to hell is paved with good intentions

the road to hell is paved with good intentions

  Hugh Stowell Brown       MEANING   Promises and plans must be put into action, otherwise they are useless.     ORIGIN   Versions of this proverb exist in several European languages; for example, the French one is l’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions. St Francis de Sales (1567-1622) attributed the maxim to […]

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slipshod

slipshod

  Three Pairs of Shoes (1886) by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) image: Van Gogh Gallery       MEANING   characterised by a lack of care, thought, or organisation     ORIGIN   A slip-shoe was a loosely fitting shoe or slipper. The word is first recorded in The fardle of facions conteining the aunciente […]

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sesame

sesame

  Sesamum indicum in Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen (1887), published by Franz Eugen Köhler     Sesame is a tall annual herbaceous plant of tropical and subtropical areas of the Old World, cultivated for its oil-rich seeds. Its scientific name is Sesamum indicum (family Pedaliaceae). The word sesame is from Latin sesamum, also sisamum, from Greek σήσαμον […]

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brownie

brownie

  an old Brownie-uniform - photograph: Magpie Club     Girls having “gatecrashed” the first Boy Scout Rally at Crystal Palace, London, in 1909, the Girl Guides Association was formed the following year. It was first led by Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert Baden-Powell’s sister. In 1918, Olave Baden-Powell, Robert’s wife, was appointed Chief Guide. The junior section for girls […]

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white feather

white feather

  illustration for The White Feather. A Sketch of English Recruiting   Inglorious Upshot That evening as he was walking from the station on his way home, three smartly-dressed girls, approaching, barred the pavement. He stopped. “How young he is, the poor darling!” murmured fondly the central maiden, and, suddenly producing a large white feather, […]

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the last straw

the last straw

  Thomas Hobbes       The last (or final) straw is a further difficulty or annoyance, typically minor in itself but coming on top of a series of difficulties, that makes a situation unbearable. This is from the phrase the last straw that breaks the (laden) camel’s back, a reference to the carrying of […]

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simnel cake

simnel cake

          Mothering Sunday is Mid-Lent Sunday (i.e. the fourth Sunday of Lent). It was also known as Refreshment Sunday because the fasting rules for Lent were relaxed that day.   The food item specially associated with Mothering Sunday is the simnel cake – and Mothering Sunday was also sometimes called Simnel […]

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