‘charity dame’ | ‘charity moll’: meaning and origin

Australia—‘charity dame’ 1949—‘charity moll’ 1962—an amateur prostitute who charges less than the usual rate—from ‘Moll’, pet form of the female forename ‘Mary’, the noun ‘moll’ has long been used to designate a prostitute

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‘to pile Pelion upon Ossa’: meanings and origin

1609—to add to what is already great, also to add difficulty to difficulty—Pelion and Ossa are two mountains in Thessaly—in Greek mythology, two giants, Otus and Ephialtes, tried to pile Pelion and Ossa on Olympus in order to reach the gods and overthrow them

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‘Piccadilly window’: meaning and origin

UK, 1897—‘Piccadilly window’: a monocle—hence ‘Piccadilly-windowed’: monocled—alludes to ‘Piccadilly’, the name of a street and of a circus (i.e., a rounded open space) in London

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‘hand of glory’: ultimately an alteration of ‘mandragora’

  mandragoras – from Stirpium historiae pemptades sex sive libri XXX (1583), by Rembert Dodoens     The term hand of glory originally denoted a charm made from, or consisting of, the root of a mandrake. A calque of French main de gloire, it was first used in Curiosities of nature and art in husbandry […]

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘tit for tat’

The phrase tit for tat means an equivalent given in return or retaliation. The expression seems to be a variation of the obsolete and more comprehensible tip for tap, in which both tip and tap meant a light but distinct blow, stroke, hit. The phrase therefore meant blow for blow. The words tip and tap first appeared combined in Fortunes Stabilnes, by Charles d’Orléans (1394-1465). Context: the letter patent […]

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