the British use of ‘dole’

(British) benefit paid by the state to the unemployed (1919)—from Middle-English sense ‘food or money given in charity’—from primary sense ‘portion’, ‘share’

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origin of the word ‘geek’

19th century, northern England—apparently a variant of ‘geck’, of Germanic origin, meaning ‘a fool’, ‘a dupe’, ‘an oaf’

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history and meanings of the word ‘ordeal’

  L’épreuve du feu (l’inquisition) by Devritz (painter) and Leroy (engraver) – date unknown source: BIU Santé     The original meaning of the noun ordeal, from Old English ordāl, ordēl, is: an ancient test of guilt or innocence by subjection of the accused to severe pain, survival of which was taken as divine proof […]

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘to break one’s duck’

    The professional bowler welcoming the new-comer. illustration for Very Hard Cash (New York, 1864), by Charles Reade     In cricket, from the resemblance between the figure 0 and a duck’s egg, the term duck’s egg denotes the zero (i.e. 0) placed against a batsman’s name in the scoring sheet when he fails […]

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origin of the phrase ‘as poor as a church mouse’

  woodwork in Easingwold Parish Church – Diocese of York Robert Thompson, the Kilburn craftsman, invariably carved a little mouse on his work. photograph: Visit Easingwold     The phrase as poor as a church mouse means extremely poor. It is first recorded in The royalist a comedy (1682), by the English author Thomas D’Urfey (1653-1723): ’Gad […]

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