origin of ‘to break the ice’

from the image of breaking the frozen surface of a river in order to make a passage for boats – probably from Latin ‘scindere glaciem’, in Erasmus’s Adages

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the unexpected origin of ‘to rule the roost’

To rule the roost means to be in a dominating position over others. This phrase conjures up a picture of a cock lording it over a group of hens, i.e. a roost, in the farmyard, and appears to be similar to cock of the walk, which designates someone who dominates others within a group. But […]

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meaning and origin of ‘to carry coals to Newcastle’

  A trainload of coal on the High Level Bridge in Newcastle photograph: Stephen Craven     MEANING   The phrase to carry coals to Newcastle means to supply something to a place where it is already plentiful; hence, figuratively, to do something wholly superfluous or unnecessary—cf. also to sell refrigerators to the Eskimos and to sell […]

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