‘to break a butterfly on a wheel’: meaning and origin

to use unnecessary force in destroying something fragile—alludes to a wheel used as an instrument of torture—first occurs in An Epistle from Mr. Pope, to Dr. Arbuthnot (1734), by the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744), who perhaps coined this phrase

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adolescence: ‘the awkward age’ – ‘l’âge ingrat’

UK, 1832—‘the awkward age’: the adolescence, when one is no longer a child but not yet properly grown up, a time of life characterised by physical and emotional changes—translates in French as ‘l’âge ingrat’, ‘the thankless age’

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A dunce was originally a follower of John Duns Scotus.

‘dunce’: originally a follower of John Duns Scotus (circa 1265-1308), scholastic theologian; in the 16th century, Scotus’s system was attacked with ridicule by the humanists and the reformers as a farrago of needless entities and useless distinctions

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the cultural background to ‘the Swan of Avon’

an epithet for William Shakespeare, born at Stratford-upon-Avon, on the River Avon—first used by Ben Jonson in the earliest collected edition (1623) of Shakespeare’s plays—but this use of ‘swan’ for a bard, a poet, is rooted in a tradition going back to antiquity

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