meaning and origin of ‘to raise Cain’

to create trouble or a commotion—USA, 1840—a euphemism for synonymous phrases such as ‘to raise the Devil’ and ‘to raise hell’—from the name of the eldest son of Adam and Eve and murderer of his brother Abel

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the Christian-Latin origin of ‘Noël’

French—from the noun use of the Latin adjective ‘natalis’ (from Christian-Latin ‘natalis dies’, ‘day of birth’), denoting the festival of the nativity of Christ

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the uncertain origin of ‘cockney’

originally ‘pampered child’, later ‘town-dweller regarded as affected or puny’—origin uncertain—probably not the same word as ‘cokeney’, literally ‘cock’s egg’

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the long history of ‘blues’

‘blues’—from ‘blue’ (‘sorrowful’) and elliptically from ‘blue devils’ (‘depression’)—originally a metaphorical use of ‘blue’ (‘bruised’), as in ‘black and blue’

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tour d’ivoire – ivory tower

1837—used by Sainte-Beuve to describe French poet Vigny’s seclusion in a turret room and preoccupation with inspiration unconnected with practical matters

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origin of ‘according to Cocker’

according to Cocker: correctly; reliably—early 19th century, from the name of Edward Cocker (1631-75), English arithmetician, reputed author of a popular Arithmetick

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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 ‘sneeze’

The verb ‘sneeze’ is an alteration of the obsolete verb ‘fnese’ due to misreading or misprinting it as ‘ſnese’ (= ‘snese’).

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Galloglossia

  John Bull taking a Luncheon:—or—British Cooks, cramming Old Grumble-Gizzard, with Bonne-Chère. hand-coloured etching by James Gillray, published on 24th October 1798 — © Trustees of the British Museum This print was published just after Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile. He is shown in the forefront of British admirals and naval heroes, serving up […]

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