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’

  Roasting, Middle Ages. Luttrell Psalter – from Good Cheer: The Romance of Food and Feasting (1911), by Frederick W. Hackwood     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, […]

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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   to carry coals to Newcastle: to supply something to a place where it is already plentiful; hence, figuratively, to do something wholly superfluous or unnecessary   ORIGIN   This phrase (in which coals is an obsolete […]

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