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…]
Shampoo comes from the Hindi word chhampo meaning ‘press’. To shampoo someone was to massage them.
The meaning changed over time and as shampooing was part of the Turkish Bath ritual it changed to mean part of the cleansing process.
To shampoo the hair was to cleanse and massage the scalp. Shampoo still has this meaning [more…]
Have you ever wondered why it is thought that impatience leads to undressing?
This exclamation comes from a time before modern manufacturing technology allowed clothes to be mass produced.
A shirt was a much more expensive item than it is today and so if someone were to get into a fight, it made good economic sense [more…]
You can sound posh, look posh, come from a posh family, visit a posh restaurant or go to a posh school. We all know what it means but where does POSH originate from?
We usually associate POSH with the British upper-classes and it has gained the wider usage to describe, sometimes pejoratively, ‘smartly-dressed, well-groomed, looking [more…]