A dunce was originally a follower of John Duns Scotus.

‘dunce’: originally a follower of John Duns Scotus (circa 1265-1308), scholastic theologian; in the 16th century, Scotus’s system was attacked with ridicule by the humanists and the reformers as a farrago of needless entities and useless distinctions

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the authentic origin of ‘quiz’ (“Vir bonus est quis?”)

Originally meaning ‘person of ridiculous appearance’, ‘quiz’ (students’ slang, late 18th century) was jocularly derived from the Latin interrogative pronoun ‘quis’ in “Vir bonus est quis?” (“Who is a good man?”)—a good, ingenuous, harmless man being likely to become an object of ridicule or even of harassment.

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meaning and origin of ‘Hogs Norton’

Light Programme 12.0, Family Favourites; 1.30, Mr. Gillie Potter, Sage of Hogsnorton from B.B.C. Sunday – The Derry Journal (Ireland) – 28th March 1952     The name Hogs Norton, also Hog’s Norton and Hogsnorton, denotes a fictional town renowned for its uncultured and boorish inhabitants. It has often been used in depreciative phrases suggesting that […]

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘the cup that cheers’

    The phrase the cup that cheers but not inebriates and its variants refer to tea as a drink which invigorates a person without causing drunkenness. It is from The Winter Evening, the fourth book of The Task. A Poem, in six Books (1785), by the English poet and letter-writer William Cowper (1731-1800): Now stir the fire, and close the […]

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origin of ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’

  The phrase hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is a misquotation from The mourning bride, a tragedy by the English playwright and poet William Congreve (1670-1729), produced and published in 1697: Vile and ingrate! too late thou shalt repent The base Injustice thou hast done my Love. Yes, thou shalt know, spite of thy past […]

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origin of ‘spoonerism’ (unintentional interchange of sounds)

photograph of William Archibald Spooner in The Leeds Mercury (Yorkshire) of Monday 1st September 1930   There is a rather awkward moment in “An Italian Straw Hat” when Laurence Payne, as a young bridegroom, looking desperately into the auditorium of the Old Vic, cries: “The thick plottens!” Hearing this elementary Spoonerism, graver members of the […]

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origin of the phrase ‘it’s Greek to me’

    The noun Greek has long been used in the sense of unintelligible speech or language, gibberish, and the phrase it’s (all) Greek to me means I can’t understand it at all. This expression is well known from The Tragedie of Julius Cæsar (1599), by the English playwright and poet William Shakespeare (1564-1616): (Folio […]

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