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Our members originate from Monaghan, Kilkenny, Galway. Affiliated with our Shannon Family are Dooley, Burke, Martin & more. Currently spread around Monaghan, Kilkenny, Wicklow, Wexford, Waterford, Dublin, Galway, London, Holland, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia

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The Cat's Pyjamas

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CathyCat
Part of the furniture
Part of the furniture

Book What the Dickens?

Post by CathyCat on Sun 19 Feb 2017 - 17:44

WHAT THE DICKENS?

An exclamation of surprise or disbelief, akin to 'What the devil?'  The phrase is often shortened to 'What the ...?' and in these modern times, 'f**k' is sometimes substituted as the last world.

'Dickens' here is probably a euphemism - one possibly in use since the sixteenth century - for the Devil, otherwise known as Satan or the Prince of Evil, and has nothing to do with the novelist Charles Dickens (1812-70).

In Low German, its equivalent is 'De duks!', which may have become altered in English to 'dickens'.

The phrase was already in use by the time Shakespeare was writing:
"I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.":
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600:3:2)

'To play the dickens' is an old-fashioned expression meaning to be naughty, or act like a devil.
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CathyCat
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Book The writing on the wall

Post by CathyCat on Mon 20 Feb 2017 - 22:13

THE WRITING ON THE WALL

This is not graffiti, but a bad sign, a portent, often foreshadowing trouble or disaster.

The metaphor is biblical in origin and comes from Daniel 5:5-31, where King Belshazzar, while he was feasting, found out about the forthcoming destruction of the Babylonian Empire through the mysterious appearance of handwriting on a wall.

The words read in Aramaic, mene, mene, tekel, upharsin:  literally, 'counted, weighed, divided'.  Daniel interpreted these words as, 'You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting', thereby predicting the King's downfall and that of his empire.

Indeed, Belshazzar was killed that night, and his kingdom was conquered.

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CathyCat
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Book The wrong side of the tracks

Post by CathyCat on Tue 21 Feb 2017 - 13:52

THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS

To be born on the wrong side of the tracks is a disadvantage, as it was the part of town deemed to be both  socially and environmentally inferior.

The expression originated in America, where railway lines ran through the centre of towns. Poor and industrial areas were often located to one side of the railroad tracks because the prevailing wind would blow smoke from the railway and smog in that direction, leaving the better-off neighbourhoods unpolluted.

The phrase is now used to refer to anyone who comes from a poor or rough background.

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CathyCat
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Book To act the giddy goat

Post by CathyCat on Wed 22 Feb 2017 - 23:07

TO ACT THE GIDDY GOAT

To fool around.  Goats are known for their unpredictable behaviour.

In the literal sense, 'giddy' means 'insane' or to be 'possessed by a god', but it has been used to mean 'silly' or 'foolish' since the early Middle Ages.

In Latin, 'goat' is caper; goats are noted for their frisky nature.  'To cut a caper' means to skip or leap about playfully'.


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CathyCat
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Part of the furniture

Book To the bitter end

Post by CathyCat on Thu 23 Feb 2017 - 12:50

TO THE BITTER END

To the last extremity, to the final defeat, or to the death.  An affliction can be borne until the bitter end, meaning to the last stroke of bad fortune.

'Bitter end' is a mid-nineteenth-century nautical term for the end of a rope or chain secured in a vessel's chain locker.  When there is no windlass (winch), such cables are fastened to bitts - that is, pairs of bollards fixed to the deck - and when the rope is let out until no more remains, the end is at the bitts: hence the 'bitter end'.

However, the phrase appears in the Old Testament in the context that we use today, and some etymologists believe that this is the true source of the expression:

Her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
(Proverbs 5:4)

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CathyCat
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Book To bone up on

Post by CathyCat on Thu 2 Mar 2017 - 15:46

TO BONE UP ON

To study intensively, to engage in serious research into a particular subject, or to revise a subject comprehensively.

Some sources suggest that the phrase is an allusion to whalebone in a corset, which sculpts the shape and stiffens the garment, as a metaphor for the gaining of 'hard knowledge'.

Other believe it came from the Victorian practice of using bone to polish leather, and that it indicated a polishing or refinement of knowledge.

However, in the nineteenth century a publishing firm owned by Henry Bohn (1976-1884) produced English translations of Greek and Latin classics that were widely used by students cramming for their exams - andit is possible that the expression 'to Bohn up' may have evolved into 'bone up'.

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CathyCat
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Book The bottom line

Post by CathyCat on Sat 4 Mar 2017 - 0:04

THE BOTTOM LINE

The main point of an argument, the basic characteristic of something, the actual value of a financial deal, or the nub or truth of the matter.

The phrase itself is an accounting term, and refers to the figure at the end of a financial statement, indicating the net profit or loss of a company.


'The bottom line' gained wide currency as a phrase during the 1970s, possibly because of its frequent use by the UK Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger (1923-).  He spoke of 'the bottom line' as the eventual outcome of a negotiation - ignoring the distraction of any inessential detail.
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CathyCat
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Book By the skin of one's teeth

Post by CathyCat on Tue 7 Mar 2017 - 19:04

BY THE SKIN OF ONE'S TEETH

By the narrowest margin.  There are several metaphors with the meaning 'only just' and many allude to body parts (for example, 'by a hair's breadth'), emphasizing the physical danger of a given situation from which one might have just escaped.

'By the skin of one's teeth' specifically is a (slightly misquoted) biblical phrase that means to have suffered 'a close shave':

My bone cleaveth to my skin, and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.
Job 19:20
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CathyCat
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Part of the furniture

Book To carry a torch

Post by CathyCat on Thu 9 Mar 2017 - 22:47

TO CARRY A TORCH

To suffer unrequited love.  Since the late 1920s, this phrase has been used to describe a long-standing emotional attachment that is either undeclared or not returned.

The torch represents the flame of undying love, and this symbolism may come from depictions of Venus, the goddess of love, holding a burning torch.

A 'torch singer is (usually) a female who sings sentimental love songs.  It is thought that the expression 'torch song', in this sense, may have been coined by Broadway nightclub singer Tommy Lyman in the 1930s.
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CathyCat
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Book To call off all bets

Post by CathyCat on Thu 9 Mar 2017 - 22:55

TO CALL OFF ALL BETS

A summons to cancel all wagers, deriving from the race track and the betting shops; for instance, a bookmaker may call off all bets if  he suspects that a race or other contest has been rigged.

In a widening of its meaning, the phrase is used to mean rejecting a complicated or disadvantageous issue.

In African-American slang of the 1940s, however, it meant 'to die' - indeed, the most final way of calling off all bets.
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CathyCat
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Book To case the joint

Post by CathyCat on Fri 10 Mar 2017 - 12:33

TO CASE THE JOINT

An American slang expression from the criminal fraternity meaning to inspect or reconnoitre a building before attempting to rob it or break into it for some other nefarious purpose.

'Joint' in this context means 'a building': an early twentieth-century colloquial Americanism for a sleazy dive where opium could be smoked or, during the Prohibition era (1920-33), where illicit spirits could be bought and drunk.  The word 'joint' has since come to be generally applied disparagingly to almost any disreputable establishment.


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