origin of ‘castles in Spain’

In French medieval chansons de geste ‘castles in Spain’ denoted fiefs that had to be conquered from the Saracens by the knights to whom they had been granted.

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meaning and origin of ‘red herring’

Red herring, used in laying trails for hounds to follow, was misunderstood as a deliberate attempt to distract them, hence the figurative use of ‘red herring’.

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origin of ‘to go haywire’

From the practice of using hay-baling wire for makeshift repairs, ‘haywire’ came to mean crudely made, improvised, hence disorganised, erratic, crazy.

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the straight and narrow

‘The straight and narrow’: allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. ‘Straight’ is an alteration of ‘strait’, meaning ‘so narrow as to make transit difficult’.

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to send to Coventry

probable origin: in 1642, during the English Civil War, Royalists had been captured at Birmingham and sent to Coventry, which was a Parliamentarian stronghold.

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Gorgeous Wrecks

‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ (UK, WWI): members of the Volunteer Training Corps, from the letters ‘G.R.’ (‘Government Recognition’) interpreted as meaning ‘Georgius Rex’

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origin and meanings of ‘jingo’

The current sense of ‘jingo’ originated in a 1877 patriotic song adopted by the bellicose factions within the Conservative Party during the Russo-Turkish war.

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origin of ‘cap-a-pie’

English ‘cap-a-pie’ is from ‘de cap à pied’, ‘from head to foot’, used in Occitan and in the Middle French of southern France.

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the various meanings of ‘earthling’

Before being a science-fiction term used by aliens to refer to an inhabitant of the earth, ‘earthling’ denoted an inhabitant of the earth as opposed to heaven.

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