origin of ‘to cut a caper’

‘caper’: probably abbreviation of ‘cabriole’, from Italian ‘capriola’, literally ‘female roe deer’, from Latin ‘capreola’, ‘wild goat’, from ‘capra’, she-goat

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origin of ‘castles in Spain’

In French medieval chansons de geste ‘castles in Spain’ denoted fiefs that had to be conquered from the Saracens by the knights to whom they had been granted.

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carrot and stick

early 20th century—refers to the method of tempting a donkey to move forward by dangling a carrot before it, and beating it with a stick if it refuses

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meaning and origin of ‘Box and Cox’

from the name of an 1847 farce in which a landlady lets out, unbeknown to them, the same room to two tenants, Box and Cox, the one by day, the other by night

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origin of ‘madeleine’

‘madeleine’: originally ‘gâteau à la Madeleine’ (late 18th cent.), perhaps named after French cook Madeleine Paumier – refers also to Swann’s Way, by Proust

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origin of ‘maudlin’

‘maudlin’: tearfully sentimental – from the Middle-English name ‘Maudelen’, designating Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus, customarily represented as weeping

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to wet one’s whistle

In ‘to wet one’s whistle’ (to take a drink), attested in the late 14th century, in Chaucer, ‘whistle’ is jocular for the mouth or the throat.

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origin of ‘to pull someone’s leg’

‘To pull someone’s leg’ is perhaps from the image of tripping someone literally or figuratively, of putting them at a disadvantage to make them appear foolish.

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origin of ‘Boxing Day’

from the verb ‘box’, ‘to give a Christmas-box’, i.e. to give a gratuity or present to tradespeople and employees—originally a box in which money was collected

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