not to give a tinker’s damn

  The phrase not to give, care or be worth a tinker¹’s curse, cuss² or damn (or elliptically a tinker’s) is an intensification of not to give, care or be worth a curse, cuss or damn, with reference to the bad language reputedly used by tinkers. The low repute in which tinkers were held is also […]

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mayonnaise

  photograph: Farm Shop     The noun mayonnaise denotes a thick, creamy sauce consisting of egg yolks emulsified with oil and seasoned, used as a cold dressing or accompaniment for salad, eggs, fish, etc., or as the base for other sauces. It is used in two French phrases: la mayonnaise prend, literally, the mayonnaise […]

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to leave no stone unturned

  photograph: pixabay     The phrase to leave no stone unturned means to try every possible course of action in order to achieve something. (The equivalent French phrase has a cosmic dimension since it is remuer ciel et terre, literally, to move heaven and earth.) The image of turning every stone was already proverbial […]

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sandwich

Dr Daniel Solander, Sir Joseph Banks, Captain James Cook, Dr John Hawkesworth and Lord Sandwich (circa 1771), by John Hamilton Mortimer (1740-79) In 1778, in honour of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, Captain James Cook named Sandwich Islands the islands now known as Hawaiian Islands. (Cook named several other islands after Montagu; for example, present-day […]

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turducken – rôti sans pareil (unequalled roast)

  New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme with his wife and partner, K. “Chef is the food, but I am the taster,” she says. from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 7th March 1984     A blend of turkey, duck and chicken, the noun turducken designates a poultry dish consisting of a boned chicken inside a […]

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another pair of shoes

  Another Pair Of Shoes Shoes are the most important of all accessories, and will make or mar a smart outfit. The group pictured above have crossed the Atlantic, and may be seen at Dolcis, 350, Oxford Street. Starting from the left is a light calf monk shoe with slit punching, a square toe, and […]

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to cock a snook

  illustration by the Danish artist Thomas Vilhelm Pedersen (1820-59)   The literal sense of to cock a snook is to make a rude gesture by putting one thumb to the nose with the fingers of the hand outstretched. Its figurative meaning is to show contempt by being insulting or offensive. Here, to cock means […]

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cock-and-bull story

Democritus Junior (Robert Burton) from the frontispiece to the 1628 edition of The Anatomy of Melancholy     The phrase cock-and-bull story denotes an implausible story used as an explanation or excuse. The French expression sauter du coq à l’âne, literally to jump from the cock to the (male) ass, means to skip from one subject to another, the […]

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to have a frog in one’s throat

  FROG IN YOUR THROAT. 7½d. An instantaneous remedy for “Laryngeal” and “Bronchial Inflammation,” “Tickling,” “Clergymens’ [sic] Sore Throat,” “Smokers’ Sore Throat,” Soreness resulting from dryness of the throat and air passages, or from “clearing the throat.” They afford greater relief than anything hitherto known. Especially useful to Singers, Speakers, Readers, Actors, Teachers, and all […]

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fresh as a daisy

    The word daisy is from Old English dæges éage, meaning day’s eye. This name alludes to the fact that the flower of this plant opens in the morning and closes at night, as the human eye does. Perhaps its petals, which close over its bright centre at the end of the day, were also thought to resemble human […]

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