Archive for the Category: Words and phrases

A Piece of Theatre

In French the word for play, as in a theatrical production, is pièce or pièce de théâtre. Pièce also means: – a room – a part (of a mechanism or machine) – a coin – a patch (on clothes) – a document – a piece, as in a one-piece swimsuit or a twelve-piece dinner service. […]

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Today I came across word that’s new to me – bants – which, according to the Oxford Dictionaries, means: Playfully teasing or mocking remarks exchanged with another person or group; banter. It’s also written bantz, and is an abbreviation of banter, a word of unknown origin which first appeared in writing in 1676 in a […]

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Neither fur nor feather

Today I came across an interesting Russian idiom in the book I’m reading (Moon Seed, by Stephen Baxter): Ни пуха, ни пера (Ni púkha, ni perá). It means literally “neither fur nor feather” and is used to wish someone good luck. The phrase was originally used by Russian hunters in a sarcastic/ironic way. The feathers […]

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For some reason I thought I’d look into the word trump today. It has a number of meanings: 1. trump (noun): the suit, in a game of cards, that outranks all others; a playing card of that suit; something that gives one an advantage, especially one held in reserve. Etymology From triumph, from the French […]

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Romance and Horses

What does romance have to do with horses? Well, the word romance has a number of meanings: – A story relating to chivalry; a story involving knights, heroes, adventures, quests, etc. – An intimate relationship between two people; a love affair. – A strong obsession or attachment for something or someone. – Idealized love which […]

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Gorillas, monkeys and ponys

With a title like that, you might be expecting a post about animals, but in fact it’s about slang terms for money – a gorilla is £1,000, a monkey is £500 and a pony is £25. These names apparently come from old Indian banknotes and coins: the 25 Rupee coin had a pony on it, […]

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Within walking distance

This weekend I went to a friend’s wedding near Milton Keynes, and stayed in an AirBnB in Bletchley on Saturday night. In my review of the AirBnB I said that it was “within walking distance” of the centre of Bletchley. After writing this, I started thinking that the phrase walking distance probably means quite different […]

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Spaghetti car bananas

On a recent episode of Word of Mouth on BBC Radio 4, they discussed the interesting words children come up with. They might attempt say particular words but can’t quite manage all the sounds, or get them mixed up, sometimes with unintentionally funny results. They also get words mixed and muddled, or perhaps muddlixed. Can […]

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Beds that lie

The other day I noticed the word gwlau on a sign outside a furniture shop. It’s a Welsh word I hadn’t seen or heard before, but from the context I worked out that it meant ‘beds’. The sign also included the words gwlau soffa (sofa beds). As I hadn’t come across this plural form of […]

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Ingenious genius

The word ingenious sounds like the antonym (opposite) of genius as in- is often used as a negative suffix (invisible, indivisible, etc). However they are not. Ingenious means: – displaying genius or brilliance – tending to invent – characterized by genius – cleverly done or contrived; witty; original; shrewd; adroit; keen; sagacious. It comes from: […]

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