origin of ‘to cut a caper’

‘caper’: probably abbreviation of ‘cabriole’, from Italian ‘capriola’, literally ‘female roe deer’, from Latin ‘capreola’, ‘wild goat’, from ‘capra’, she-goat

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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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a cat may look at a king

  Executioner argues with King about cutting off Cheshire Cat’s head – illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) The executioner’s argument was, that you couldn’t cut off a head unless there was a body to cut it off from.     The phrase a cat may look at a king means even a person of low […]

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shell out

  photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Bill Ebbesen     The phrasal verb shell out means to pay a specified amount of money, especially one regarded as excessive. It is first recorded in Moral tales for young people (1801), by the Anglo-Irish novelist and educationist Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849): “One of you, it’s plain, must shell out your corianders.” (The word coriander (or coliander), short […]

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milliner

  A Morning Ramble, or The Milliners Shop (1782) image: The British Museum       A milliner is a person (generally a woman) who makes or sells women’s hats. But a Milliner was originally a native or inhabitant of Milan, a city in northern Italy. The word is first recorded in this sense in […]

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shoplifting

  Tyburn’s triple tree Illustration, said to be from about 1680, of the permanent gallows at Tyburn, which stood where Marble Arch in London now stands. This necessitated a three-mile cart ride in public from Newgate prison to the gallows. Huge crowds collected on the way and followed the accused to Tyburn. They were used […]

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to sack

    a set of seven hand-painted wooden bowling pins in the form of clowns photograph: Le Bonheur du Jour – Etsy     To sack someone means to dismiss someone from employment. This verb seems to have appeared in the first half of the 19th century. For example, the Perthshire Courier (Scotland) of Thursday 29 […]

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