origin of ‘small beer’

‘small beer’: ‘person(s) or matter(s) of little or no importance’ (first use by Shakespeare), from the literal sense ‘beer of a weak, poor or inferior quality’

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origin of ‘neither fish nor fowl’

Origin: for purposes of fasting, food was divided into categories – ‘fish’, the flesh of fish, ‘flesh’, the flesh of land-animals, ‘fowl’, the flesh of birds.

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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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let the cobbler stick to his last

‘Let the cobbler stick to his last’ goes back to Pliny’s story of the Greek artist Apelles answering a cobbler who had criticised one of his paintings.

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Hamlet without the Prince

event taking place without the central figure—from an alleged performance of Hamlet in 1775 with the title role left out because the chief actor had fled

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origin of ‘in a nutshell’

The phrase ‘in a nutshell’ originated in a story told by Pliny of a copy of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ supposedly small enough to be enclosed in the shell of a nut.

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origin of ‘pink’

The noun ‘pink’ for the flower is perhaps short for ‘pink eye’, ‘small or half-shut eye’ (cf. French ‘œillet’, ‘carnation’, diminutive of ‘œil’, ‘eye’).

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