Merry Crimbo and a cool Yule………

  Idily reading the sports pages this morning, I noticed a stray reference to “crimbo”, meaning “Christmas”. Crimbo! This word, which must have seemed cheerful, irreverent and rather modern at one point, today feels rather dated – to me, it is somehow redolent of the 1980s, although the OED has …

Let`s talk about Apostrophes….

  I used to be taught by a teacher who insisted on apostrophising everything. He would always refer to the ‘phone and the ‘papers, the punctuation point standing in for the missing tele and news. The habit was at the same time wondrously fastidious and gloriously silly. It would be …

To call a spade a spade

    This phrase derives from an ancient Greek expression: “to call a fig a fig, a trough a trough”. It is first recorded in Aristophanes’ play The Clouds (423 B.C.), and was also used by Plutarch in his Moralia half a century later .Apparently some scholars believe that both …

Honcho……

  It sounds like Spanish, doesn’t it? But in fact, it comes from the Japanese word “hancho,” which has its origins in Middle Chinese. “Han” translates as “squad,” and “cho” means “chief,” which is a common suffix in Japanese for words that denote leadership— “kocho,” for example, means “head master …

spiritus mundi……

The concept of “spiritus mundi” has its roots in the philosophy of Plato, but the phrase itself was coined by fifteenth-century German astrologer and occult philosopher Agrippa von Nettesheim. He used it as a label for the spirit element that he believed permeated the whole world and was the force …

Gung ho……

  In Chinese the word “gung” translates as work, while “ho” means “peace” or “harmony.” It was an abbreviation of “gongye hezhoushe,” the name given in the late 1930s to the industrial cooperatives springing up in rural China. It was adopted by English speakers to mean a “can do” attitude …