Bedlam is a state of chaos or uproar but its original meaning was an insane asylum.
Bedlam is derived from the word Bethlehem as taken from the Hospital of St Mary of Bethlehem located outside Bishopsgate, in the City of London. The hospital was established in approximately 1330 as an attachment to the priory, established [more…]
Originally, this term was racing slang which basically meant ‘a hot tip’.
After the 1930s however, the saying was used to encompass any kind of evidence given on the best authority.
It alludes to the fact that the most reliable way of determining a horse’s age is by simply inspecting its teeth.
A dealer may try to [more…]
Those of you who can never keep a secret – no names of course – might be interested to know the origin of the expression “Let the cat out of the bag”.
This term comes from medieval times when a market vendor would openly display a sample of his wares and give the customer a [more…]
Legend has it, that the word ‘quiz’ is the epitome of a made-up word.
The story goes that in 1780 a Mr. Daly, the manager of a Dublin theatre, wagered that he could introduce a new word of no meaning into the language in twenty-four hours.
All around the city, he chalked the letters QUIZ up [more…]
Have you ever read a sign saying ‘THIS DOOR IS ALARMED” and wonder at how a door could be so scared?
Alarme! Alarme! was a Medieval cry meaning ‘to arms’ coming to English from Old French and Italian, from the Latin ad illas armas.
The shout was often accompanied by a clanging bell or loud horn [more…]
A red herring, as a metaphor, is anything used as a distraction to draw attention away from the central issue. It can be intentional or accidental.
A herring that has been dried, salted and smoked turns a reddish colour and these cured fish have a particularly strong smell.
One theory for the origin of the [more…]
The word rickshaw conjures up scenes from the British Raj of English government officials and their ladies being taxied about by two-wheeled carriages pulled by wiry runners.However, the vehicle is thought to have its origins in France.
In 18th century France there was a two-wheeled sedan chair called a brouette, which was pulled along by [more…]
A rookie is someone who is new to a game or occupation.
It is perhaps best known in sporting circles and the military.
But what is a rookie? Rookie is thought simply to be a corruption of the word ‘recruit’. A more interesting theory is found in reference to the European bird, the rook. [more…]
When you indulge in your favourite chocolate or relax in a soothing bubble bath do you think you are in seventh heaven? Well where exactly are you?
Seven is widely considered to be a lucky or ideal number. There were seven days of Creation in the Bible, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, seven loaves (to go [more…]