gianduja

  Gianduja e Giandujotto (1986), by the Italian artist Walther Jervolino (1944-2012)     The Italian noun gianduia (improperly gianduja) appeared in the 19th century to denote a soft confection made with chocolate and ground hazelnuts, first produced in Turin, the capital of Piedmont, a region in north-western Italy, in the foothills of the Alps. […]

Read More

wouldn’t say boo to a goose

  photograph: Blackwells farm shop     The phrase wouldn’t say boo to a goose is used to emphasise that someone is very timid. Here, boo is not an expression of disapproval but a later form of bo, an exclamation intended to frighten. In Notes and Queries of 10th September 1870, the English philologist Walter […]

Read More

fed up

  Sunderland Day By Day HE SMASHED WINDOW— Because He Was “Fed Up” “I AM ‘fed up’; I have been out of work six years and I want to be locked up,” said John Scott (61), of Hood Street, Monkwearmouth, who appeared in the dock at Sunderland Police Court to-day accused of breaking a plate glass window, […]

Read More

black sheep

  photograph: Hill Farm, Abermule     MEANING   a member of a family or group who is regarded as a disgrace to it   ORIGIN   This was perhaps originally an allusion to the book of Genesis, 30. Jacob has already worked fourteen years for both of Laban’s daughters, and after Joseph’s birth he desires to […]

Read More

to be barking up the wrong tree

  Fess Parker (1924-2010) wearing a coonskin cap in Walt Disney’s 1950s television series Davy Crockett – photograph: AP     MEANING   to be pursuing a mistaken or misguided line of thought or course of action   ORIGIN   In Americanisms, Old and New. A Dictionary of Words, Phrases and Colloquialisms peculiar to the […]

Read More

pour encourager les autres

The phrase ‘pour encourager les autres’ (‘in order to encourage the others’) was coined by Voltaire with reference to the execution of Admiral John Byng in 1757.

Read More

Boche

first published in 1914 in Le Radical de Marseille (75 refers to the French 75-mm field gun.)     From 1914 to 1916, Joseph Joffre (1852-1931) was the commander in chief of the French armies on the Western Front. The following parody of the Lord’s Prayer is to be replaced in its historical context. The First World […]

Read More

trumpery

  Donald Trump Lookups for trumpery have been spiking periodically since the end of 2015, as a result of the burgeoning political fortunes of Donald Trump. Recently, people have begun posting trumpery definitions to various social media sites. This fairly obscure word has a decidedly negative set of meanings which have delighted the real estate […]

Read More

hat trick

  THE HAT TRICK. ORGANISER OF GRACE TESTIMONIAL: — “I AM NOT DOING THIS TO GET ADVERTISEMENT; MY ONLY OBJECT IS TO HELP THIS POOR UNDERPAID CRICKETER!” caricature from The Entr’acte & Limelight (London) – 22nd June 1895 In 1895, a testimonial fund was set up for W. G. Grace (1848-1915), the Grand Old Man […]

Read More

to nail (to the counter)

  Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), by Sir Francis Carruthers Gould (1844-1925), cartoonist and journalist – image: National Portrait Gallery     The verb nail is used to mean to expose or reveal the falsehood of an allegation, assertion, etc., especially to prevent further dissemination. This use is first recorded in An Oration delivered at the Celebration in Philadelphia […]

Read More