to have bats in one’s belfry

Of American-English origin, ‘to have bats in one’s belfry’ is from the image of bats flying around when disturbed, like confused thoughts in a disordered mind.

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slave – Slav – robot – ciao

The word ‘slave’ is from Medieval Latin ‘Sclavus’, ‘Slav’, because the Slavic peoples were frequently reduced to a servile condition by the Germanic conquest.

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conundrum

The word ‘conundrum’, attested in 1596, originally meant ‘whimsy’, ‘oddity’. It perhaps originated as a parody of some Latin scholastic phrase.

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origin and meanings of ‘jingo’

The current sense of ‘jingo’ originated in a 1877 patriotic song adopted by the bellicose factions within the Conservative Party during the Russo-Turkish war.

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don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

A horse’s teeth reveal its age. It is therefore bad manners to look in the mouth of a horse that has been received as a gift in order to establish its value.

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origin of ‘cap-a-pie’

English ‘cap-a-pie’ is from ‘de cap à pied’, ‘from head to foot’, used in Occitan and in the Middle French of southern France.

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to lick into shape

This phrase originated in the belief that bear cubs were born formless and had to be licked into shape by their mother.

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origin of ‘pink’

The noun ‘pink’ for the flower is perhaps short for ‘pink eye’, ‘small or half-shut eye’ (cf. French ‘œillet’, ‘carnation’, diminutive of ‘œil’, ‘eye’).

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esprit d’escalier

The expression ‘esprit d’escalier’, ‘wit of the staircase’, originally referred to a witty remark coming to mind on the stairs leading away from a gathering.

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pigs might fly

The original form of this phrase was ‘pigs fly with their tails forward’. Also: the French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish equivalent expressions.

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