Word Talk

If you’re a crossword solver, you’re bound to be a word lover…

So we know you’re going to enjoy exploring Word Talk, where we look at many of the Words and Phrases in our fascinating English language, what they mean and where they came from. Filling The Gaps provides the story behind some of the people, places and events used in Lovatts crosswords.


We clue this variously as ‘Alfred the Great’s kingdom’, ‘Thomas Hardy’s fictional area’ or even ‘Prince Edward, Earl of …’. So what or where is Wessex? The story of Wessex is really the story of the beginning of England.

Wessex was the Kingdom of the West Saxons, founded around AD 500 by Cerdic. The kingdom [more…]

Lazy Susan

A Lazy Susan is a revolving tray in the middle of the dining table for easy access to condiments and shared dishes.

What a strange name for this turntable that became fashionable in the early 20th century.

If your name is Susan, I am sure you are not lazy, but you are probably interested in the [more…]

As dead as a doornail

English abounds with similes in the form of  ‘as x as a y’ but where did this one come from?

The answer is not clear, but the expression has been around since before Shakespeare (and the good Bard used it in Henry IV).

Quite possibly ‘as dead as a doornail’ has survived down the centuries because it [more…]

Earl Grey

We all know of the famous Earl Grey tea but how did the tea get its name? Well this is not a simple matter.

According to Twinings, Prime Minister Earl Grey was given a case of this black tea flavoured with bergamot oil by a Chinese Mandarin and loved it so much that he asked [more…]

At one fell swoop

This means in a sudden move or all at once but started out with more sinister connotations.
The expression is often wrongly quoted as ‘one foul swoop’, or even ‘one fowl swoop’, but it doesn’t relate to chickens.

In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macduff on hearing of the death of his family says;
All my pretty ones?
Did you say [more…]

Lady Godiva

Lady Godiva is renowned for riding through the streets of Coventry — naked! What is less known however, is why such a pious woman would do such a thing.

Lady Godgifu, her real name, was married to Leofric, the Earl of Mercia. She was a beautiful woman who cared greatly for the people of Coventry [more…]

Old Vic

Have you seen the clue ‘London theatre, Old …’ and wondered who Old Vic was?

This famous London theatre was originally named The Royal Coburg Theatre when it first opened in 1818 but was renamed the Royal Victoria Theatre in 1833. It soon became known as the Old Vic and the name has stuck.

From 1914-1923 [more…]


Hell-bent for leather?

Have you ever heard someone say that they are hell-bent on doing something? Did you understand they meant they were very determined, but didn’t really know what the phrase literally means?

This saying has been has been popular since the early 19th century and describes someone who is prepared to go “to the gates of hell” [more…]

Kangaroo court

A kangaroo court is not a legal proceeding in the Australian outback, nor does it involve hopping marsupials.

It refers to a criminal proceeding that is conducted for show, where the defendant is undoubtedly going to be found guilty.

The earliest use of the term was recorded not in Australia as you might expect, but [more…]