tour d’ivoire – ivory tower

1837—used by Sainte-Beuve to describe French poet Vigny’s seclusion in a turret room and preoccupation with inspiration unconnected with practical matters

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origin of ‘poulet’ (love letter)

Of French origin, the word ‘poulet’, literally ‘chicken’, denotes a love letter. It probably refers to the fact that when folding these messages, one would make two tips resembling chicken wings.

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to let the cat out of the bag

    MEANING   to disclose a secret   ORIGIN   Although it is possible that to let the cat out of the bag originally referred to some specific allusion, such as a line in a play, that has now been lost, it is probable that this phrase is simply based on the comparison between the surprise […]

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virtus dormitiva

  Molière dans le rôle de César dans La Mort de Pompée de Corneille (circa 1650) par Nicolas Mignard (1606-68) – image: Musée Carnavalet     This Latin expression is composed of virtus, virtue, and dormitiva, feminine of dormitivus, dormitive. It first appeared in the following lines in dog Latin of Le Malade imaginaire (The Imaginary Invalid – 1673), in which the French playwright Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin […]

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Mamamouchi

  frontispiece and title page from a 1688 edition of Le Bourgeois gentilhomme     In his comédie-ballet Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (literally The Bourgeois Gentleman – 1670), the French playwright and actor Molière (Jean-Baptiste Poquelin – 1622-73) invented the word Mamamouchi, an imaginary Turkish title that Monsieur Jourdain is gulled into thinking the son of […]

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