‘pumpkinification’: meanings and origin

UK, 1849—transformation into a pumpkin; extravagant or absurdly uncritical glorification—coined after Hellenistic Greek ‘ἀποκολοκύντωσις’, the title of a travesty ascribed to Seneca, according to which the deceased Roman emperor Claudius, instead of being elevated to divine status, is changed into a pumpkin

Read More

‘in a cleft stick’: meaning and origin

UK, 1710—in a situation in which any action one takes will have adverse consequences—‘cleft’, past participle of the verb ‘cleave’, means ‘split in two to a certain depth’—the image is of one being squeezed between the stick’s prongs

Read More

a Pepysian phrase: ‘and so to bed’

phrase popularised by its frequent use in the diary (1659-69) of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703)—not peculiar to him, however, as it was used for example by Philip Massinger in 1624

Read More