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 …

Chagrin….

  The origins of this word, which is used to convey a sense of aggravation, sheepishness, or displeasure, are widely disputed. Some etymologists believe that it comes from a rough leather of the same name (English “shagreen”), while others say it comes from a French translation of the German word …

bon mot……

    In English a “bon mot” is a quip or witty remark. The phrase crossed over from France around 1730 and became a fashionable way to describe the clever and amusing asides that entertained eighteenth-century high society. Oscar Wilde was later famous for peppering his plays with them. Sadly, …

Express and Expresso….

  If you have ever expressed yourself on an express train, you may have wondered about the origin of the expression and why it should expressly mean that. You may then have settled down with an espresso and an Iarnrod Eireann soggy sandwich and forgotten all about it. Once upon …

To be at loggerheads……

  People at “loggerheads” are considered to be confronting each other. In the 15th and 16th centuries a ‘logger’ was the name given to a heavy wooden block fastened to the legs of grazing horses, enabling them to move slowly around a field but not to jump fences or stray too …

Eavesdroppers…….

  Eavesdroppers are people who deliberately try to overhear another’s conversation without detection. Centuries ago houses in England had no gutters and drain pipes. Instead the roofs extended far past the walls of the house enabling rainwater to drip to the ground away from the building. The area between the dripping …

To thread your way….

  For example, to thread your way through a crowd. This a lovely old phrase dating back to the mid 16th century. Back then the good and the great would entertain themselves for hours in a new , rather modern puzzle called mazes. However, many people soon realised it was just …