hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

  The phrase hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is a misquotation from The mourning bride, a tragedy by the English playwright and poet William Congreve (1670-1729), produced and published in 1697: Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent The base Injustice thou hast done my Love. Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past […]

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stirrup cup – one for the road

    Huntsmen still use stirrup cup to designate an alcoholic drink offered to riders either as they are about to depart or when they return. Mr. Barry Puilan, Master of the East Antrim Hounds, hands a stirrup cup to huntsman Jack Taylor during the meet at Trench Hill, Ballyeaston, yesterday. from The Northern Whig […]

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teetotal

  tombstone of Richard ‘Dicky’ Turner at Preston “Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Richard Turner, author of the word teetotal as applied to abstinence from all intoxicating liquors, who departed this life on the 27th day of October 1846, aged 56 years.” photograph: Paul D. Swarbrick     The adjective teetotal in […]

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nightcap

    A nightcap is a cap worn in bed to keep one’s head warm. The word is first recorded in the description and valuation, made in 1378, of the articles that were in the shop of Thomas Trewe, haberdasher of London: one dozen of white caps, called “nightcappes”, was worth 2s. 3d.. The figurative […]

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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. […]

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to make no bones about something

    Sacrifice of Isaac, by Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (circa 1571-1610)     MEANING   to have no hesitation in stating, or dealing with, something, however unpleasant or awkward it is   ORIGIN   Always used in the negative, this phrase dates back to the 16th century, originally as to make no bones at or in. It also […]

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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 […]

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moonshine

      MEANING   foolish or fanciful talk, ideas, plans, etc.   ORIGIN   It is a shortening of moonshine in the water, meaning appearance without substance, something unsubstantial or unreal. In this phrase, moonshine means moonlight. The 15th-century correspondence between members of the Paston family of Norfolk gentry, and with others connected with […]

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grog

    According to the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy, in 1731 rum was made an official issue to seamen and the daily half pint was issued in two equal parts, one in the morning and the other in the evening.  This was neat spirit and drunkenness became rife especially on the […]

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on the nail

    MEANING   of payments: without delay   ORIGIN   This expression refers to the fingernail and might originally have alluded to drinking fair and square. A clue might be provided by the French phrase payer rubis sur l’ongle (literally to pay ruby on the fingernail), which means to pay exactly what is due. (A variant, used by prostitutes, was rubis sur pieu, […]

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