origin of ‘eavesdrop’

‘To eavesdrop’ originally referred to standing within the eavesdrop (the ground on to which water drips from the eaves of a house) in order to overhear what is going on inside.

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let’s return to our muttons

to return to the matter in hand—from French ‘revenons à nos moutons’ (‘let’s return to our sheep’), allusion to ‘La Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin’ (ca 1457)

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origin of ‘to break the ice’

from the image of breaking the frozen surface of a river in order to make a passage for boats – probably from Latin ‘scindere glaciem’, in Erasmus’s Adages

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origin of ‘small beer’

‘small beer’: ‘person(s) or matter(s) of little or no importance’ (first use by Shakespeare), from the literal sense ‘beer of a weak, poor or inferior quality’

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origin of ‘according to Hoyle’

‘according to Hoyle’: according to plan or the rules—early 19th century: from the name of Edmond Hoyle (1672-1769), English writer on card games

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