the making of ‘omelette’

1611—from French ‘omelette’, ultimately an alteration of ‘lemelle’, ‘knife blade’ (from Latin ‘lamella’), with reference to the flattened shape of the dish

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tour d’ivoire – ivory tower

1837—used by Sainte-Beuve to describe French poet Vigny’s seclusion in a turret room and preoccupation with inspiration unconnected with practical matters

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let’s return to our muttons

to return to the matter in hand—from French ‘revenons à nos moutons’ (‘let’s return to our sheep’), allusion to ‘La Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin’ (ca 1457)

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origin of ‘to break the ice’

from the image of breaking the frozen surface of a river in order to make a passage for boats – probably from Latin ‘scindere glaciem’, in Erasmus’s Adages

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origin of ‘small beer’

‘small beer’: ‘person(s) or matter(s) of little or no importance’ (first use by Shakespeare), from the literal sense ‘beer of a weak, poor or inferior quality’

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