British and French Twelfth-Day traditions

Twelfth Day denotes the twelfth day after Christmas, i.e. 6th January, on which the festival of the Epiphany is celebrated, and which was formerly observed as the closing day of the Christmas festivities. (Epiphany denotes the festival commemorating the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles in the persons of the Magi; via Old-French and Anglo-Norman forms such as epyphane (Modern […]

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a 19th-century document on English phrases

remarks on English phrases (‘to rain cats and dogs’, ‘tit for tat’, ‘the devil to pay’, etc.) – from Notes and Queries (London), 9th November 1861

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘happy as a sandboy’

  The phrase (as) happy (or jolly) as a sandboy means extremely happy or carefree—cf. also happy as a clam and happy as Larry. A sandboy was a boy hawking sand for sale. It seems that the earliest use of the word is The Rider and Sand-boy: a Tale, the title of a poem written by a certain Mr Meyler and published in Harvest-Home in 1805: […]

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the authentic origin of ‘to rain cats and dogs’

First recorded circa 1629 as ‘to rain dogs and cats’, this phrase is based on a cat-and-dog fight as a metaphor for a storm or hard rain; the theory that Jonathan Swift coined the phrase is ludicrous.

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