Dictionary of Idioms and Their Origins by Linda Flavell, Roger Flavell

By Linda Flavell, Roger Flavell

Interpreting the origins of daily idioms and expressions, corresponding to "a hurricane in a teacup" and "flavour of the month", this publication explains their meanings and offers examples in their use. Interspersed with the person entries are mini-essays on ordinary subject matters - ordinary words with nautical origins, expressions in line with the macabre and at the specially British view of foreigners. (Why will we have Dutch uncles and Dutch treats, yet take French leave?) For the intense pupil, there are dates of first use and suggestions on right or present utilization, whereas the browser and lover of phrases is on the market a resource of fascination and pleasure. The authors' past books comprise "Current English Usage".

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Shepherds dislike black sheep since their fleece cannot be dyed and is therefore worth less than white. Shepherds in earlier times also thought that black sheep disturbed the rest of the flock. A ballad of 1550 tells us that T h e blacke shepe is a perylous beast’ and Thomas Bastard, writing in 1598, accuses the poor animal of being savage: Till now I thought the prouerbe did but iest, Which said a blacke sheepe was a biting beast. Market forces, superstitions and preju­ dices have prevailed and the term is now applied to anyone who does not behave as the rest of the group thinks fit.

The phrase emphasises the high risk element: a daring venture in the first place, made still more hazardous by an ‘all or nothing’ action. see also: to cross the Rubicon 44 • burn the midnight oil • burn the midnight oil, to_______ rest o f the book I have only the most cor­ dial praise. to stay up late, usually to study or write E. The idea of burning away oil in the pur­ suit of learning and creativity is not uncommon in classical literature. ” ’ The phrase as we know it today has been in use since at least the mid seven­ teenth century and, in the following cen­ tury, Gay had occasion to use it more than once, as in this passage from Trivia which describes bookstalls in London streets: Walkers at leisure learning’s flowers may spoil, Nor watch the wasting o f the midnight oil.

Echoing the business terminology o f their ancestors. ’ 42 • bull • US President Truman had a sign on his desk in the White House which read, ‘the buck stops here’, indicating that he was prepared to take full responsibility for every decision made under his presi­ dency. Later presidents, Ford and Carter among them, have echoed his intent by quoting the phrase after announcing weighty decisions. Gerald Ford used it, for example, when deciding to pardon Richard Nixon. In straits like these, the wrestler with des­ tiny is tempted to look fo r bugbears and scapegoats to carry the burden o f his own inadequacy.

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