‘to rob Peter to pay Paul’: meanings and origin

to take away from one person, cause, etc., in order to pay or confer something on another; to discharge one debt by incurring another—late 14th century—from the association of ‘Peter’ and ‘Paul’, the names of two leading apostles and saints, and fellow martyrs at Rome

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‘curtain lecture’: meaning and origin

a rebuke given in private by a wife to her husband—1625—from the idea that, in order to conduct herself properly, a wife was to rebuke her husband in secret only, i.e., in the privacy of their curtained bed

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‘holier-than-thou’: meaning and origin

self-righteously or sanctimoniously virtuous, or professing to be so—UK, 1834—alludes to the Book of Isaiah, 65:5: “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.”

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‘ember months’: meaning and origin

the final four months of the calendar year, i.e., September, October, November and December—UK, 1863—from ‘-ember’ in ‘September’, ‘November’ and ‘December’

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‘autumn-spring’: meanings and origin

a period of warm, springlike weather occurring in the autumn—hence, figuratively, a late period of youthfulness—first used from 1639 onwards by the Anglican clergyman and historian Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)

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notes on ‘no joy without alloy’

also ‘no joy without annoy’—meaning: there is a trace of trouble or difficulty in every pleasure—was already a common proverb in the late sixteenth century

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‘poacher turned gamekeeper’: meaning and origin

a person who now preserves the interests that he or she previously attacked—UK, 19th century—but the notion occurred in Chaucer’s Physician’s Tale and ‘the greatest deer-stealers make the best park-keepers’ in The Church-History of Britain (1655)

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