let’s return to our muttons

to return to the matter in hand—from French ‘revenons à nos moutons’ (‘let’s return to our sheep’), allusion to ‘La Farce de Maistre Pierre Pathelin’ (ca 1457)

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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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to lick into shape

This phrase originated in the belief that bear cubs were born formless and had to be licked into shape by their mother.

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as poor as a church mouse

  woodwork in Easingwold Parish Church – Diocese of York Robert Thompson, the Kilburn craftsman, invariably carved a little mouse on his work. photograph: Visit Easingwold     The phrase as poor as a church mouse means extremely poor. It is first recorded in The royalist a comedy (1682), by the English author Thomas D’Urfey (1653-1723): ’Gad […]

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field bishop

  Pantagrueline prognostication (1535) – image: Anthropologie en ligne     The term field bishop denotes a person who is hanged and imagined as grotesquely giving a benediction with his jerking legs. It is first recorded in A mysterye of inyquyte contayned within the heretycall genealogye of Ponce Pantolabus (1545), by John Bale (1495-1563), Bishop […]

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dandelion – pissenlit

  the 1905 edition of Le Petit Larousse illustré, a French-language encyclopaedic dictionary published by the Éditions Larousse In 1890, Eugène Grasset (1845-1917) designed the image of la Semeuse (the Sower) blowing dandelion seeds, which accompanies the motto of the Éditions Larousse, Je sème à tout vent (I sow to the four winds).   The word […]

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