Why ‘ache’ ought to be written ‘ake’.

The spelling ‘ache’ (erroneously derived from Greek ‘ákhos’) instead of ‘ake’ is largely due to Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755).

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origin of ‘a little bird told me’

1711 in a letter by Jonathan Swift—perhaps from Ecclesiastes, 10:20: “a bird of the air shall carry the voice; and that which hath wings, shall tell the matter”

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origin of ‘spick and span’

mid-17th cent. in the sense ‘brand new’—from ‘spick and span new’, extension of ‘span new’, from Old Norse ‘spán-nýr’, ‘as new as a freshly cut wooden chip’

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the origin of ‘spud’ (potato)

The noun ‘spud’, originally the name for the digging implement used to dig up potatoes, was applied to the latter in the 19th century.

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meaning and origin of ‘the devil to pay’

refers to a person making a pact with the Devil: the heavy price has to be paid in the end—unrelated to the nautical phrase ‘the devil to pay and no pitch hot’

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origin of ‘the land of Nod’

‘the land of Nod’: a state of sleep—punning allusion to the name of the region to which Cain went after he had killed his brother Abel (Genesis, 4:16)

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origin of ‘by a long chalk’

‘by a long chalk’: in a great degree, by far — 19th century, from the practice of using chalk to mark up the points scored in a game

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over the moon

The phrase ‘over the moon’ means ‘very happy’, ‘delighted’. It seems to have originated in Ireland in the early 18th century.

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to have a bee in one’s bonnet

This phrase is a transformation of ‘one’s head full of bees’, meaning scatter-brained, unable to think straight, as if bees are buzzing around in one’s head.

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(as) mad as a March hare

‘(As) mad as a March hare’ refers to the fact that, in the breeding season, the hare is characterised by much leaping, boxing and chasing in circles.

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