origin of ‘double Dutch’ and ‘High Dutch’ (‘gibberish’)

‘double Dutch’, 19th century—from ‘Dutch’ in the sense of a language that few people can speak, and ‘double’ as a mere intensifier—‘High Dutch’, 17th century—loan translation from French ‘haut allemand’ (= ‘High German’), used in the sense of gibberish

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‘maelstrom’ (a whirlpool off the west coast of Norway)

late 16th century—from early modern Dutch ‘maelstrom’ (now ‘maalstroom’)—originally a proper name designating a powerful whirlpool in the Arctic Ocean, off the west coast of Norway, which was formerly supposed to suck in and destroy all vessels within a wide radius

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How ‘mouse’, ‘muscle’ and ‘mussel’ are interrelated.

Classical Latin ‘muscŭlus’, literally ‘a little mouse’, also denoted ‘a muscle of the body’, especially of the upper arm, from the resemblance of a flexing muscle to the movements made by a mouse; ‘muscŭlus’ was also used in the sense of ‘mussel’.

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‘marmalade’: from Latin ‘mēlŏmĕli’ and ‘mĕlĭmēla’

first recorded in 1480—from Portuguese ‘marmelada’ (quince marmalade), from ‘marmelo’ (quince), itself from Latin ‘malomellum’ (quince, sweet pome), a blend of Latin ‘mēlŏmĕli’ (syrup of preserved quinces) and ‘mĕlĭmēla’ (a variety of sweet pome)

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the cultural background to ‘the Swan of Avon’

an epithet for William Shakespeare, born at Stratford-upon-Avon, on the River Avon—first used by Ben Jonson in the earliest collected edition (1623) of Shakespeare’s plays—but this use of ‘swan’ for a bard, a poet, is rooted in a tradition going back to antiquity

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‘ultracrepidarian’, coined to denigrate a specific person

UK, 1819—specifically invented to qualify the English poet and critic William Gifford with reference to the fact that he had been a shoemaker’s apprentice—alludes to the proverb ‘let the cobbler stick to his last’ from Pliny’s Natural History (AD 77)

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‘pupil’: one’s own reflection in somebody’s eye

A diminutive of ‘pūpa’ (‘a girl’, in transferred use also ‘a doll’), the Latin feminine noun ‘pūpilla’ came to also denote ‘the pupil of the eye’ on account of one’s own reflection seen when looking into somebody’s eye—the same metaphor underlies ‘to look babies in somebody’s eyes’.

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How ‘magazine’ came to denote a periodical publication.

‘Magazine’ (= ‘storehouse’) came to denote a book providing information on a specified subject (17th c.). This gave rise to the sense ‘periodical magazine (= ‘repository’) of the most interesting pieces of information published in the newspapers’ (18th c.).

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‘Atlantic’ originally referred to Mount Atlas in North Africa.

‘Atlantic’ originally referred to Mount Atlas in North Africa, on which the heavens were fabled to rest; it was hence applied to the sea near the western shore of Africa, and afterwards extended to the whole ocean lying between Europe and Africa on the east and America on the west.

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‘Glamour’ was originally a Scottish alteration of ‘grammar’.

‘Glamour’ was originally a Scottish alteration of ‘grammar’: this article explains how it came to denote an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing.   GLAMOUR BABY Jackie Watson, “Glamour Baby” of Alfred Esdaile’s new autumn revues, “Folies de Minuit” and “Revue d’Elegance,” at the London Casino, for which Gordon Courtney […]

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