‘urbi et orbi’ (‘to the city (of Rome) and to the world’)

from classical Latin ‘urbī’, dative of ‘urbs’ (city), and ‘orbī’, dative of ‘orbis’ (orb, circle)—in classical Latin, ‘orbis terrarum’, ‘orbis terrae’, the orb, or circle, of the earth, meant by extension the world, since the ancients regarded the earth as a circular plane or disk

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origin of ‘coward’ and of ‘cowardy, cowardy custard’

‘coward’—from Old-French ‘cuard’, probably referring to a frightened animal with its tail between its legs—from ‘cüe’ (Modern French ‘queue’), ‘tail’, and pejorative suffix ‘-ard’ (cf. ‘bastard’)—‘cowardy, cowardy custard’, alliterative nonsensical children’s phrase (19th century)

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How Thomas Jefferson was berated for coining ‘belittle’.

coined by Thomas Jefferson in Notes on the State of Virginia, first published in Paris in 1785—literal meaning: ‘to make little’ (composed of the prefix ‘be-’ and the adjective ‘little’)—criticised in The European Magazine, and London Review of August 1787 when the book was published in London

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‘irregardless’: a hyperbolic form of ‘regardless’

USA, 1795—Probably a blend of ‘irrespective’ and ‘regardless’, ‘irregardless’ means the same as ‘regardless’. It is regarded as incorrect in standard English, because the negative prefix ‘ir-’ merely duplicates the suffix ‘-less’, and is therefore unnecessary.

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‘handbag’: how Thatcher enriched the English language

‘handbag’: to bully or coerce by subjecting to a forthright verbal assault or criticism—originally used with reference to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Economist (7 August 1982)—from literal meaning ‘to batter or assault with a handbag’

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‘preposterous’, or ‘having first what should be coming after’

16th century—from the Latin adjective ‘praeposterus’, composed of the adverb ‘prae’ (‘in front’, ‘before’) and the adjective ‘posterus’ (‘coming after’, ‘following’, ‘next’), so that its literal sense is ‘next (placed) first’, ‘having first what should be coming after’.

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the forgotten origin of ‘cock-a-hoop’

from the 16th-century phrase ‘to set cock a hoop’, ‘to set (the) cock on (the) hoop’, apparently meaning ‘to put the cock (= spigot) on a barrel hoop and let the liquor flow prior to a drinking bout’—‘cock’ later equated with the fowl and ‘hoop’ with French ‘huppe’ (tufted crest)

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