adolescence: ‘the awkward age’ – ‘l’âge ingrat’

UK, 1832—‘the awkward age’: the adolescence, when one is no longer a child but not yet properly grown up, a time of life characterised by physical and emotional changes—translates in French as ‘l’âge ingrat’, ‘the thankless age’

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The literal meaning of ‘easel’ is ‘ass’ (beast of burden).

The noun ‘easel’ was borrowed from Dutch ‘ezel’; this sense of ‘ezel’ is a metaphorical extension of its literal meaning, ‘ass’, from the fact that, like a beast of burden, an easel is used to carry things. Likewise, the literal meaning of the synonymous French word ‘chevalet’ is ‘little horse’.

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meaning and origin of ‘violon d’Ingres’

First recorded in The Bystander (London) on 24 January 1906, this French phrase means ‘hobby, pastime’; it refers to the passion that the French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) had for playing the violin.

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British and French Twelfth-Day traditions

Twelfth Day denotes the twelfth day after Christmas, i.e. 6th January, on which the festival of the Epiphany is celebrated, and which was formerly observed as the closing day of the Christmas festivities. (Epiphany denotes the festival commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi; via Old-French and Anglo-Norman forms such as epyphane (Modern […]

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the changing identities of the doryphore

Greek ‘δορυϕόρος’ (‘doruphόros’) meant ‘spearman’; in French, ‘doryphore’ denotes the Colorado beetle and the German occupying forces during WWII; in English, it denotes a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic.

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the queen’s cushion, a Scottish makeshift seat

‘queen’s’, or ‘king’s’, ‘cushion’: a seat made by two people who cross arms and hold each other’s hands to form a support for another person—Scotland and northern England, 19th century

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meaning and origin of ‘Mrs Grundy’

from Speed the Plough (1798), by Thomas Morton; Dame Ashfield is constantly fearing to give occasion for the sneers of Mrs Grundy, her unseen neighbour

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‘famous for fifteen minutes’

apparently misattributed to Andy Warhol in the book published for the first European retrospective of his work at the Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden, in 1968

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meaning and origin of ‘old school tie’

UK, 1929—the attitudes, loyalties, values, etc., associated with British public schools—from the distinctive tie that indicates which school the wearer attended

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