origin of ‘quiz’

Originally students’ slang, ‘quiz’ is from Latin ‘quis’, meaning ‘who’, as used by the Roman poet Horace in “vir bonus est quis?”, “who is a good man?”

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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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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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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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spoonerism

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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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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brunch

    A blend of breakfast and lunch, the noun brunch denotes a late morning meal eaten instead of breakfast and lunch. It originated, apparently in the late 19th century, as Oxford University slang and is first recorded in Lunch at Oxford, by Margaret B. Wright, published in The Independent (New York) of Thursday 22nd […]

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not a cat in hell’s chance

  Jackson’s Oxford Journal – 29th September 1753     The phrase not a cat in hell’s chance, which means no chance at all, is puzzling. It is a shortening of the more explicit no more chance than a cat in hell without claws.  The earliest instance of this phrase that I could find is from Jackson’s Oxford […]

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Aunt Sally

  Aunt Sally – from The Modern Playmate: A book of games, sports, and diversions for boys of all ages (new revised edition – 1875?), by John George Wood (1827-89)     The Oxford English Dictionary (first edition – 1885) thus defined Aunt Sally: a game much in vogue at fairs and races, in which […]

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in the swim

  G. A. SALA, TO SIR AUGUSTUS HARRIS, ON PASSING THE PALACE THEATRE:—“I SAY, GUS, THINGS LOOK A LITTLE LIVELIER HERE THAN WHEN YOU AND I WERE IN THE SWIM!” — from The Entr’acte and Limelight (London) of 10th March 1894 (Augustus Harris (1825-73) was a British actor and theatre manager. George Augustus Sala (1828-95), was […]

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