The language of domination

  Sir Walter Scott (1829), replica by John Graham Gilbert – image: National Portrait Gallery     The Anglo-Saxons were the Germanic inhabitants of England before the Conquest, i.e. the invasion and assumption of control by William of Normandy in 1066. Known as William the Conqueror, William I (circa 1027-87) defeated Harold II at the […]

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clock – cloak

cloak: twin roses designs     The nouns clock and cloak are doublets, or etymological twins: they are of the same derivation but have different forms and meanings. Despite the notion of ‘two’ implied by doublet, the term is also applied to sets of more than two words. In this case, cloche, a borrowing from French, […]

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a pretty kettle of fish

  Oxford English Dictionary (1st edition – 1901): kettle net under the headword kettle kettle net under the headword kiddle   MEANING   The phrase a pretty (or fine) kettle of fish means an awkward state of affairs.   ORIGIN   There is an obvious error in the Oxford English Dictionary (1st edition – 1901): under the […]

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shambles

  Old York: the Shambles – illustration by Charles G. Harper for his book The Great North Road: The Old Mail Road to Scotland: York to Edinburgh (1901) (The pavements are raised either side of the cobbled street to form a channel where the butchers would wash away the offal and blood.)     MEANING   […]

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