24th Dec 2020. Reading time 14 minutes.
1546—originally designated the period of time following a wedding, and arose from the comparison of the mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon, which is no sooner full than it begins to wane
15th Oct 2020. Reading time 7 minutes.
UK, 1710—in ease and luxury—refers to the use of clover as fodder, as explained by Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755): “To live in Clover, is to live luxuriously; clover being extremely delicious and fattening to cattle.”
14th Dec 2019. Reading time 9 minutes.
said as a jest after the departure of a person or persons regarded as untrustworthy—apparently coined by the English lexicographer Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
16th Nov 2019. Reading time 12 minutes.
UK, 18th and 19th centuries—‘trunkmaker’ was often employed with allusion to the use of the sheets of unsaleable books for trunk-linings
2nd Aug 2019. Reading time 9 minutes.
The letter ‘s’ in both the nouns currently spelt ‘island’ and ‘aisle’ is due to folk-etymological association of those words with the unrelated noun ‘isle’.
16th Sep 2018. Reading time 9 minutes.
UK, 1930—‘as the bishop said to the actress’, ‘as the actress said to the bishop’: mischievously implies a sexual innuendo or ambiguity in a preceding innocent remark
8th Aug 2018. Reading time 7 minutes.
originally a kind of horse chase in which the second horse had to follow the course of the leader, like a flight of wild geese
23rd Dec 2017. Reading time 7 minutes.
From the 17th century onwards, Grub Street, in Moorgate, London, was inhabited by literary hacks.
29th Oct 2017. Reading time 8 minutes.
The spelling ‘ache’ (erroneously derived from Greek ‘ákhos’) instead of ‘ake’ is largely due to Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755).
19th Oct 2017. Reading time 5 minutes.
mid-17th cent. in the sense ‘brand new’—from ‘spick and span new’, extension of ‘span new’, from Old Norse ‘spán-nýr’, ‘as new as a freshly cut wooden chip’