‘royal we’: meaning and origin

UK, 1821—‘we’ used in place of ‘I’ by a monarch or other person in power, also (frequently humorously) by any individual—originated as a loan translation from French ‘nous royal’, as used of Napoléon Bonaparte by Madame de Staël in her memoirs published in 1821

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‘Johnny Crapaud’: meanings and origin

UK, 1805—personifies France or the French people, or designates a typical Frenchman—composed of ‘Johnny’, a pet form of ‘John’ used, with modifying word, to designate a person of the type, group, etc., specified, and of French ‘crapaud’ (a toad)—coined by British sailors during the Napoleonic Wars

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‘elbow grease’ | ‘huile de coude’

The humorous expression ‘elbow grease’ (1639) denotes vigorous physical labour, especially hard rubbing. The corresponding French expression is ‘huile de coude’ (1761), literally ‘elbow oil’.

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‘churchyard cough’: meaning and origin

UK, 1677—a bad cough indicative of impending death—with allusion to the churchyard as the site of burial, ‘churchyard’ has been used attributively of something indicative of, or associated with, (impending) death

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origin of ‘impressionist’ and ‘impressionism’

‘impressionist’ (1875) from French ‘impressionniste’ (1874)—a painter who was an exponent of ‘impressionism’ (1877), a movement in painting developed in France in the last third of the 19th century—French ‘impressionnisme’ may have been coined in 1858

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‘Piccadilly window’: meaning and origin

UK, 1897—‘Piccadilly window’: a monocle—hence ‘Piccadilly-windowed’: monocled—alludes to ‘Piccadilly’, the name of a street and of a circus (i.e., a rounded open space) in London

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‘gavroche’: meaning and origin

USA, 1863—a street urchin, especially in Paris, France—from ‘Gavroche’, the name of a street urchin in Les Misérables (1862), a novel by Victor Hugo

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‘to have two left feet’ and synonymous phrases

‘to have two left feet’: to be clumsy or awkward—postdates synonymous ‘to have two left hands’ (1815), loan translation of French ‘avoir deux mains gauches’—‘left’ has long been associated with inferior performance, awkwardness and insincerity

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