clew – clue

    photograph: pixabay     The noun clue appeared as a variant spelling of clew, of same pronunciation. Not frequent until the 17th century, clue has become the prevailing form of the word in the sense of a fact or idea that serves to reveal something or solve a problem. The word is from Old English cliwen, cleowen, meaning a ball formed by winding yarn, […]

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blotto

  advertisement for Blotto brothers’ triporteurs Le Jardin des Modes nouvelles – 15th October 1913       The adjective blotto, which has mainly been used to mean drunk, originated in World War One British military slang. It is first recorded in this sense in the chapter Slang in a War Hospital of Observations of an Orderly: Some Glimpses of […]

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to eat humble pie

  A puzzle published in The Hibernian Magazine, or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge (Dublin, Ireland) in 1774 punned on the humble of humble pie, which may indicate that the latter term was already used figuratively at that time. The following is from the October issue:                     […]

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to lose one’s marbles

    The noun marble, denoting a hard crystalline metamorphic rock resulting from the recrystallization of a limestone, is from Anglo-Norman forms such as marbre and marbelle, and from Old-French forms such as marbre, maubre and mabre, from classical Latin marmor. This Latin noun is from ancient Greek μάρμαρος (= mármaros), shining stone, marble, of […]

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mayonnaise

  photograph: Farm Shop     The noun mayonnaise denotes a thick, creamy sauce consisting of egg yolks emulsified with oil and seasoned, used as a cold dressing or accompaniment for salad, eggs, fish, etc., or as the base for other sauces. It is used in two French phrases: la mayonnaise prend, literally, the mayonnaise […]

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another pair of shoes

  Another Pair Of Shoes Shoes are the most important of all accessories, and will make or mar a smart outfit. The group pictured above have crossed the Atlantic, and may be seen at Dolcis, 350, Oxford Street. Starting from the left is a light calf monk shoe with slit punching, a square toe, and […]

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marrowsky

  The noun marrowsky, which has also been spelt Marouski, Marowsky, morowski and mowrowsky, denotes a variety of slang, or a slip in speaking, characterised by the transposition of the initial letters or syllables of two words. The more usual term is spoonerism. The word is first recorded in the verbal form Marrowskying in the critical review […]

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cheese – fromage

    “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux-cent quarante-six variétés de fromage ?” (“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”) attributed to Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French general and statesman, in Les mots du général de Gaulle (1962), by Ernest Mignon photograph: fémivin.com     […]

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nul points

  Seventies spectacle – Brotherhood of Man featured on Channel 4’s Top Ten – Eurovision There was once a time when it [= the Eurovision Song Contest], along with Miss World and the FA Cup Final, formed part of an annual must-see television triumvirate. The only people who did not watch it were social deviants — […]

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gianduja

  Gianduja e Giandujotto (1986), by the Italian artist Walther Jervolino (1944-2012)     The Italian noun gianduia (improperly gianduja) appeared in the 19th century to denote a soft confection made with chocolate and ground hazelnuts, first produced in Turin, the capital of Piedmont, a region in north-western Italy, in the foothills of the Alps. […]

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