the queen’s cushion, a Scottish makeshift seat

‘queen’s’, or ‘king’s’, ‘cushion’: a seat made by two people who cross arms and hold each other’s hands to form a support for another person—Scotland and northern England, 19th century

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the long history of ‘blues’

‘blues’—from ‘blue’ (‘sorrowful’) and elliptically from ‘blue devils’ (‘depression’)—originally a metaphorical use of ‘blue’ (‘bruised’), as in ‘black and blue’

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origin of ‘the Slough of Despond’

the name of a deep boggy place at the beginning of Christian’s journey to the Celestial City in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ (1678), by John Bunyan

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origin of ‘barmy’ (crazy)

A ‘barmy’ person has a ‘frothy top’, insubstantial brains, from ‘barm’, the froth that forms on the top of fermenting malt liquors.

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Hogs Norton

Light Programme 12.0, Family Favourites; 1.30, Mr. Gillie Potter, Sage of Hogsnorton from B.B.C. Sunday – The Derry Journal (Ireland) – 28th March 1952     The name Hogs Norton, also Hog’s Norton and Hogsnorton, denotes a fictional town renowned for its uncultured and boorish inhabitants. It has often been used in depreciative phrases suggesting that […]

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origin of ‘blarney’

‘blarney’: originally an allusion to the lies told by those who, having not reached the Blarney stone (in a castle near Cork), explained how they did reach it

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auld lang syne

  Old Long Syne – broadside ballad (probably 1701)     The Scots lang syne means long since, long ago. Conversely, short syne means a short time ago, recently. Especially in recalling old experiences shared with friends, auld lang syne, literally old long-ago, is used as a noun to mean the years of long ago, old times, memories of the past, and for auld lang syne is used to mean for old times’ […]

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you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear

    The proverb you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear means you can’t create a fine product from inferior materials. It originated in Scotland, according to its first recorded instance, in A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew (1699), by “B. E. Gent.”: Luggs, […]

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