to paint the town red

  Spree at Melton Mowbray. Larking at the Grantham Toll-Gate. Or Coming in for the Brush. A Society of Distinguished Painters, Who Hunt with Fox Hounds, Live Splendidly and only Paint at Night. date: unknown – by Henry Thomas Alken (1785-1851)     Of American-English origin, the colloquial phrase to paint the town red means to […]

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caviar to the general

  The letter written to his family by the French resistant Yves Daoudal (1891-1944) on 5th April 1944, before he was shot. A passage has been “caviardé”, blue-pencilled. (Photograph: Le Mont-Valérien)     The phrase caviar to the general is used to denote a good thing unappreciated by the ignorant (here, the general refers to the multitude). It is from The Tragicall Historie […]

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corduroy

  photograph: javi.velazquez       MEANING   a heavy cotton pile fabric with lengthways ribs   ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The original form of this noun, in the late 18th century, was corderoy. The earliest use of the word that I could find is in The Manchester Mercury (Lancashire) of Tuesday 7th April 1772:       […]

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midinette

  Phonetically and semantically similar to milliner, the French word midinette was defined as “a milliner’s female assistant, especially in Paris” in the 1933 Supplement to the New English Dictionary (as the Oxford English Dictionary was known). However, while milliner literally means a Milanese, a native or inhabitant of Milan, midinette is a portmanteau word, […]

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donkey

   definition of donkey in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785), by Francis Grose     Donkey is a word of late appearance and of uncertain origin. It was first defined by the English antiquary and lexicographer Francis Grose (1731-91) in A Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785): Donkey, donkey dick: a he, or […]

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