origin of ‘skinflint’

attested 1699—from the hyperbolical phrase ‘to skin a flint’ (1656)—cf. ‘to skin a flea for its hide and tallow’ and French ‘tondre un œuf’ (‘to shave an egg’)

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origin of ‘to cut both ways’

to serve both sides of an argument; to have both good and bad effects—England, early 18th century—refers to a sword which has two cutting edges

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an oxymoronic word: ‘oxymoron’

The word ‘oxymoron’ has the property it denotes: it is from Greek ‘oxús’, meaning ‘sharp’, ‘acute’, and ‘mōrόs’, meaning ‘dull’, ‘stupid’.

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origin of ‘place in the sun’

traceable to Pensées, by Blaise Pascal (1623-62); modern use apparently originated in a speech made in December 1897 by the German statesman Bernhard von Bülow

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meaning and origin of ‘incunabula’

Latin ‘incunabula’: ‘swaddling clothes’, hence ‘beginning’—denotes the early printed books (from the 1450s to the end of the 15th century)

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Eating in the Romance languages

In Latin, short words having complicated irregularities in their forms gave way to simpler words with regular patterns and longer phonetic individualities.

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origin of ‘cicerone’

early 18th century—from the name of the Roman orator and author Marcus Tullius Cicero, apparently in allusion to the eloquence and learning of these guides

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