‘Adam and Eve’ (to believe)

UK, 1925—the verb ‘Adam and Eve’ is rhyming slang for ‘to believe’—there is no truncation, contrary to the usual rhyming-slang formation (cf. ‘scooby’, rhyming slang for ‘clue’, which is short for ‘Scooby Doo’)

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‘Bloomsday’: meanings and origin

the 16th of June 1904; also the 16th of June of any year, on which celebrations take place, especially in Ireland, to mark the anniversary of the events in Ulysses (1922), by the Irish author James Joyce—Leopold Bloom is one of the central characters in Ulysses, in which all the action takes place on one day, the 16th of June 1904

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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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How Horace Walpole coined ‘serendipity’.

    The noun serendipity denotes the faculty of making by accident discoveries that are both fortunate and unexpected. (It has been borrowed into Spanish as serendipia, into Italian as serendipità, and into French as sérendipité.) It was coined by the English writer and politician Horace Walpole (1717-97). In a letter that he wrote to his friend Horace Mann […]

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meaning and origin of ‘Hogs Norton’

The name Hogs Norton, also Hog’s Norton and Hogsnorton, denotes a fictional town renowned for its uncultured and boorish inhabitants. It has often been used in depreciative phrases suggesting that someone is a native or inhabitant of this town. These phrases have variously associated the name: – with present-day Hook Norton, a town in Oxfordshire […]

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etymological twins: ‘pastiche’ – ‘pastis’

The noun pastis designates an aniseed-flavoured aperitif, while pastiche, or pasticcio, denotes a work of art that imitates the style of another artist or period and a work of art that mixes styles, materials, etc. Unlikely as it may seem, these words are doublets, or etymological twins: although they differ in form and meaning, they go […]

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