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The Cat's Pyjamas

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CathyCat
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Book Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by CathyCat on Mon 16 Jan 2017 - 17:51

TO SEE A MAN ABOUT A DOG

This is a very shifty turn of phrase and suggests a desire to cover up one's real actions.  It is the excuse offered if one wishes to be discreet and avoid giving the true reason for leaving the room, the meeting or whatever social gathering.

The phrase is sometimes used as a euphemism for some unmentionable activity such as going to the lavatory - or worse, going to do something or meet someone one shouldn't.

The phrase originally referred to betting on dog racing.

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CathyCat
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Book To see red

Post by CathyCat on Tue 17 Jan 2017 - 20:16

TO SEE RED

To give way to excessive passion or anger, or to be violently moved; to indulge in physical violence while in a state of frenzy.

The reference is to the Spanish spectacle of bullfighting and the art of taunting the bull.  The phrase 'like a red rag to a bull' is said of anything that is calculated to excite rage.  Toreadors' capes are lined with red (although there is actually no evidence to suggest that the colour itself incenses the bulls).

The phrase may also have blended with an American term in use in the early 1900s, 'to see things red', which describes the feeling of anger when the blood rises, or the 'red mist' descends.

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CathyCat
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Book Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by CathyCat on Wed 18 Jan 2017 - 21:33

TO SELL SOMEONE DOWN THE RIVER

This expression means to deceive or to betray.  The phrase probably originated in the first few years of the nineteenth century in the Southern states of America.

Since by then it was illegal to import slaves, there was an internal trade and they were brought down the Mississippi to the slave markets of Natchez or New Orleans.  Therefore if a slave was 'sold down the river', he lost his home and family.

The saying particularly alludes to the practice of selling unruly slaves to owners of plantations on the lower river, where conditions were harsher than in the more northerly slave states.

To 'sell' is old slang for 'swindle' or 'hoax', and a person who has been tricked is said to have been 'sold'.

To 'sell the pass' is to betray one's own side'; the phrase was orignally Irish and is applied to those who turn king's evidence or who betray their comrades for money.

The tradition relates to the behaviour of the regiment that was sent by Clotha, Lord of Atha, to hold a pass against the invading army of Trathal, King of Gael.  The pass was yeilded for money and Trathal, victorious, assumed the title of King of Ireland.
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CathyCat
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Book Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by CathyCat on Fri 20 Jan 2017 - 5:03

AT THE SHARP END

Directly involved with the action, positioned where the competition or danger is greatest.  The connection is not with the point of a sword, but with the pointed shape of the bows of a ship, which are the first towards the enemy at the start of any engagement or battle.

The cry of 'Look sharp!' or 'Sharp's the word!' are both calls to immediate action, whether on the battlefield or in the playground; the expression also means to be observant, to 'keep your eye on the ball'.

Before the days of large supermarkets and closed-circuit television, if a shopkeeper suspected a customer of shoplifting, he would give a coded warning to his assistant by saying, 'Mr Sharp has come in.'

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CathyCat
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Book To be in seventh heaven

Post by CathyCat on Fri 20 Jan 2017 - 12:01

TO BE IN SEVENTH HEAVEN

To be supremely happy, in a state of complete ecstasy.


The seventh heaven was defined by the Kabbalists - students of a Jewish mystical system of theology and metaphysics with its roots in ancient Greek teachings, which dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and from which Madonna's famous version of Kabbalah stems.

The Kabbalists interpreted passages from the Old Testament based on the symbolism of numbers, devised and decoded charms and created mystical anagrams and the like.  They maintained that there were seven heavens each rising above the other; the seventh being the home of God and the archangels, the highest in the hierarchy of the angels.

Seven is a mystic or sacred number.  It is the sum of four and three which, among the Pythagoreans, were, and have been ever since, counted as lucky numbers.  Among ancient cultures, there were seven sacred planets.

The Hebrew verb 'to swear' means literally to 'come under the influence of seven things', while in an Arabic curse, seven stones are smeared with blood.  All of which demonstrate the power of seven as a mystical number.

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CathyCat
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Book SPIN DOCTOR

Post by CathyCat on Sat 21 Jan 2017 - 22:29

SPIN DOCTOR

This phrase comes from baseball and refers to the spin put on the ball by a pitcher to disguise its true direction or confuse the batter.

It is an American idiom which was first applied in political commentary in the mid 1980s during Ronald Reagan's presidency, describing his public-relations advisers during promotion of the 'Star Wars' Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).

These so-called 'spin-doctors' were on 'spin control', their mission being to give the preferred interpretation of events to the world's media, thereby manipulating public opinion in the desired direction.  The spin doctor is now a prominent feature of British politics and business in general.


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CathyCat
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Book To stand in another man's shoes

Post by CathyCat on Sun 22 Jan 2017 - 14:03

TO STAND IN ANOTHER MAN'S SHOES

'To stand in another man's shoes' is to take the place of another person emphathetically.

In similar vein, the opportunistic phrase 'waiting for dead men's shoes' is sometimes thought, if not spoken.

Among the Vikings, when a man adopted a son, the adoptee put on the shoes of his new father.

Reynard the Fox, a medieval beast epic (c.1175-1250), is a satire on contemporary life found in French, Flemish and German literature.  Reynard, having turned the tables on the former minister Sir Bruin the Bear, asks the Queen to let him have the shoes of the disgraced bear.  as a result, Bruin's shoes are torn off and put on the new hero.

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CathyCat
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Book Sweet Fanny Adams

Post by CathyCat on Mon 23 Jan 2017 - 11:35

SWEET FANNY ADAMS

This expression is ambiguously used to mean either nothing at all, or sweet nothing.  It has a very tragic origin.

In 1867, eight-year-old Fanny Adams was raped and murdered in a hop garden in Alton, Hampshire, and her dismembered body was thrown into the River Wey.  A twenty-one-year-old solicitor's clerk, Frederick Baker, was tried soon after and hanged at Winchester.

The Royal Navy, with extreme black humour, adopted the poor girl's name as a synonym for tinned mutton, which was first isued at this time, and for a while stewed meat was known as Fanny Adams.  'Sweet Fanny Adams' became, as a consequence, a phrase for anything worthless, and subsequently to mean nothing at all.

The phrase is still used today, usually as just the initials 'SFA' or 'sweet FA', which happen to be the same as 'f**k all', from which most people, wrongly, think this expression is derived.

~ o ~


:surprised:   Now that I know where it comes from, I will never, ever use that expression again.  Evil or Very Mad


After further research, I found this:  https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/content/true-story-sweet-fanny-adams

The true story of Sweet Fanny Adams

Few people who use the expression 'Sweet Fanny Adams' know of its origin. However there was a time when it would have been recognised instantly.

When the name Fanny Adams made sensational headlines, creating a wave of horror, revulsion and pity. Little Fanny Adams was brutally murdered on Saturday 24 August 1867. Nothing much ever happened to disturb the rural Hampshire community of Alton: certainly none of the inhabitants could recall a local murder during their lifetime. So Fanny's mother, Harriet Adams, probably thought it quite safe for three small children to wander off alone towards Flood Meadow, just 400 yards from their home in Tan House Lane.

The crime

Fanny and her friend, Minnie Warner, both eight years old, set off up the lane with Fanny's seven-year-old sister Lizzie and they were approached by a man dressed in black frock coat, light waistcoat and trousers. Despite his respectable appearance he had obviously been drinking, and the proposition he put to the children remains chillingly familiar to today's police officers. He offered Minnie three halfpence to go off and spend with Lizzie, while Fanny could have a halfpenny if she alone would accompany him up The Hollow, an old road leading to the nearby village of Shalden. Fanny took her halfpenny but refused to go with him, whereupon he picked her up and carried her into a nearby hopfield, out of sight of the other children. It was then almost 1.30pm.

At about five o'clock, having played together since Fanny's abduction, Minnie Warner and Lizzie Adams made their way home. Seeing them return, a neighbour, Mrs Gardiner, asked where Fanny was, then rushed to tell Mrs Adams when the children had explained what had happened. The anxious women hurried up the lane, where they met the same man coming from the direction of The Hollow.

Mrs Gardiner accosted him: "What have you done with the child?" "Nothing", he replied equably, maintaining this composure as he answered Mrs Gardiner's other questions. "Yes, he had given them money, but only to buy sweets which I often do to children", and Fanny, unharmed, had left him to rejoin the others. His air of respectability impressed the women and when he told them that he was a clerk of a local solicitor William Clement, they allowed him to leave.

However, at seven o'clock, with the child still missing, worried neighbours formed a search party. They found poor Fanny's dreadfully mutilated remains in the hopfield. It was a sickening scene of carnage. The child's severed head lay on two poles, deeply slashed from mouth to ear and across the left temple. Her right ear had been cut off. Most horribly, both eyes were missing. Nearby lay a leg and a thigh. A wider search revealed her dismembered torso: the entire contents of chest and pelvis had been torn out and scattered, with some internal organs even further slashed or mutilated. So savage was the butchery that other parts of her body were recovered only after extensive searches over several days. Her eyes were found in the River Wey.

On hearing of her daughters death, the distraught Mrs Adams ran to tell her husband (who was playing cricket on the Butts, South of the Town) then collapsed from grief and exhaustion. George Adams reacted to the news by returning home for his shotgun, and setting out for the hopfields in search of the murderer. Fortunately for both, neighbours disarmed him.

The perpetrator

Later that evening, Supt William Cheyney arrested the obvious suspect at his workplace, the solicitor's office in Alton High Street. "I know nothing about it," said 29-year-old Frederick Baker in the first of many protestations of innocence, before Cheyney escorted him through an angry crowd to Alton Police Station.

The wristbands of Baker's shirt and his trousers were spotted with blood. His boots, socks and trouser bottoms were wet. "That won't hang me, will it?" he said nonchalantly, explaining that it was his habit to step into the water when out walking. But he could not explain how his clothing came to be bloodstained. More evidence - two small knives, one of them stained with blood - came to light when he was searched. The suspect was locked away while Supt Cheyney checked on his movements that afternoon. Witnesses confirmed that he had left the solicitors office shortly after 1pm, returning at 3.25pm, he again went out until 5.30pm. Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Adams had seen him coming from the direction of the hopfield some time after 5pm: if, as seems likely, he had murdered Fanny Adams during his first absence, had he returned to commit further depredations on his victim's body?

Baker's fellow Clerk, Maurice Biddle, spoke of seeing him in the office at about six that evening, when he had described his meeting with Mrs Adams and Mrs Gardiner. Baker had seemed disturbed, "it will be very awkward for me if the child is murdered", he told Biddle. Later they went over to the Swan for a drink where the morose Baker said he might leave town on the following Monday. To his colleague's observation that perhaps he would have difficulty in finding a new job, Baker made the significant reply, "I could go as a butcher".

On the following Monday, whilst searching Baker's office desk, Cheyney found his diary. It contained a damning entry which the suspect admitted writing shortly before his arrest. "24th August, Saturday - killed a young girl. It was fine and hot". At his trial Baker maintained that this entry, written when he was drunk, simply meant that he was aware a girl had been murdered.

The Coroner

Meanwhile, a local painter William Walker had found a large stone in the hopfield, with blood, long hair and a small piece of flesh adhering to it.



This, pronounced Dr Louis Leslie, the Alton divisional police surgeon, was probably the murder weapon; his post-mortem finding was that death had been caused by a crushing blow to Fanny's head.

Tuesday evening saw the inquest before Deputy County Coroner Robert Harfield at the Duke's Head Inn. After viewing the gruesome remains, hearing the evidence and the handcuffed prisoners reply when the coroner asked if he wished to say anything ("No Sir - only that I am innocent"), the jury returned a verdict "wilful murder against Frederick Baker for killing and slaying Fanny Adams". He was remanded to Winchester Prison to await the formal committal hearing.

This was held at Alton Town Hall on Thursday 29 August before local magistrates. Still protesting his innocence, the prisoner was committed for trial at the next County Assizes. A large crowd awaited his removal from the Town Hall and the Police were only able to protect him from the violence of the mob with great difficulty. Baker's trial opened at Winchester Assizes on 5 December.

Little Minnie Warner was carried into court to testify; the defence strongly challenged her identification of Baker and also claimed (perhaps correctly) that it was impossible for his small knives to have dismembered the unfortunate Fanny so thoroughly. But the defence case centred on Baker's mental state, a sad tale of hereditary insanity.

His father had "shown an inclination to assault even to kill, his children"; a cousin had been in asylums four times; brain fever had caused his sister's death; and he had attempted suicide after an abortive love affair.

Apparently unimpressed, the jury rejected Mr Justice Mellor's judicial advice that they might consider the prisoner irresponsible for his actions through insanity, possibly the inevitable verdict today.

After retiring for only 15 minutes the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Frederick Baker was hanged before a crowd of 5000, a large proportion of whom consisted of women, in front of Winchester's County Prison at 8am on Christmas Eve, 1867.

Following the execution it became known that Baker had written to the parents of the murdered child to express deep sorrow over the crime that he had committed "in an unguarded hour and not with malice aforethought". He earnestly sought their forgiveness adding that he was "enraged at her crying, but it was done without any pain or struggle". The prisoner denied most emphatically that he had violated the child, or had attempted to do so.

Poor Fanny's headstone which was erected by Public subscription and renovated a few years ago, is pictured here with her younger sister and Minnie Warner, and still stands in the town cemetery on the Old Odiham Road. It might have been our only reminder of the tragic affair had it not been for the macabre humour of British Sailors.

Served with tins of mutton as the latest shipboard convenience food in 1869, they gloomily declared that their butchered contents must surely be 'Sweet Fanny Adams'. Gradually accepted throughout the armed services as a euphemism for 'sweet nothing' it passed into common usage.

As an aside, the large tins in which the meat was packed for the royal navy, were often used as mess tins and it appears that even today mess tins are colloquially known as 'fannys'.

   
 
The Fanny Adams sampler reads:
The Alton Murder

The inhabitants of Alton have subscribed funds for the neat headstone to the grave of the girl Fanny Adams who was so brutally murdered by Frederick Baker. The headstone has been placed in the cemetery and bears the following inscription.

' Sacred to the memory of Fanny Adams aged 8 years and 4 months who was cruelly murdered August 24th, 1867'.
Fear not them which kill the body, but rather fear Him who is able to kill both body and soul in hell.'

Hundreds of persons have visited the cemetery". Emma Robinson 1874

The colours of the silks on the back are greens and reds and blues and yellows but these have considerably faded on the front. It is all done in cross stitch, with some additional threads laid diagonally on one feature in the top right corner.
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CathyCat
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Book Dear-John letter

Post by CathyCat on Tue 24 Jan 2017 - 16:08

DEAR-JOHN LETTER

A 'you're dumped' note from a wife or girlfriend breaking the news that the relationship with the recipient is over.

The expression originated during the Second World War and is thought to be American.  The unfortunate objects of Dear John letters were usually members of the armed forces overseas, whose female partners at home had made new liaisons, proving that absence sometimes did not make the heart grow fonder.

the name 'John' was often used to signify 'everyman' at the time, 'John Doe' was the name givenn to any man whose real name was unknown or had to be kept anonymous, like our 'Joe Bloggs' today.

7

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CathyCat
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Book The dog days of summer

Post by CathyCat on Thu 26 Jan 2017 - 12:51

THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

Very hot and oppressive Summer days.  The Romans called the hottest weeks of the Summer caniculares dies, and not because dogs are thought to go mad in the heat (although Noel Coward (1899-1973) did write in 1932 that 'mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun').

The theory was that the days when the Dog Star, Sirius - the brightest star in the firmament - rose with the sun were the hottest and most sultry.  It is an ancient belief that the combined heat of Sirius and the sun produced the stifling weather from about 3 July to 11 August.

We also now use the phrase 'dog days' to describe any period of stagnation.


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CathyCat
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Book At the drop of a hat

Post by CathyCat on Fri 27 Jan 2017 - 19:20

AT THE DROP OF A HAT

On signal, instantly, without delay.

The expression alludes to the American frontier practice of dropping a hat as a signal for a boxing or wrestling match to begin, usually the only formality observed.  Athletics or horse races also used to be started by the fast downward sweep of a hat.

There are many sayings including the word 'hat', such as 'hats off to him', 'as black as your hat', and 'I'll eat my hat', all of which probably originated in the days when dress codes and social etiquete were more formal, requiring people in polite society to cover their heads.


    Current date/time is Tue 22 May 2018 - 14:31