May 20, 2009


The fact that the words "candid" and "candidate" share the same roots (the Indo European root word "kand" , that means "to shine" and is also the root for the word "candle") should not come as a surprise. What is interesting though is the reason why the word is used to refer to someone who is seeking a political position. In ancient Rome, by tradition, a person who would run for a political office would wear a white colored toga. This was more symbolic than a rule as it hinted at the purity of the person running for the political position (Ha! you would say, given how we perceive political candidates today, irrespective of our race or nation). So, though candidate is literally translated as "clothed in white", it was borrowed in English to refer to a political-position seeker, thanks to a Roman tradition.

April 28, 2009


Donnybrook - an uproar, brawl

Donnybrook is a district of Dublin, Ireland. It used to be the site of Donnybrook Fair. It began in 1204 when King John bestowed the eight-day event on the citizens to thank them for fortifying the city of Dublin. The fair became notorious for drunkenness and rowdiness giving rise to the word donnybrook. The fair was eventually banned in 1855, but the word stuck.

Usage example: .....the donnybrook on Capitol Hill over immigration.....


April 01, 2009

Dutch Courage

Meaning – bravery boosted by alcohol

During 17th century, the enmity between England and Holland increased because of control over sea and new world searched. So during one such a war sailors aboard the Hollander British warship were given brandy before beginning of the war. Due to this enmity, wherever Britishers settled, they started their anti-Dutch tradition.

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P.S. :- Intention of second post was just to make sure 100th post is on my name. :D :D

Break a leg

Meaning - Wish good luck (especially) to actors before they go on to stage

There are different stories behind this phrase. But one interesting story goes with John Wilkes Booth who assassinated Abraham Lincoln on 14th April, 1865. After assassination, Booth tried to escape and broke his leg, but it was his luck that he escaped because of his broken leg. Still his luck ran out and got killed twelve days after the incident. Basically the assassination incident happened in a theatre and when Booth assassinated Lincoln, he tried to jump on stage and that’s how he broke his leg. So now the phrase is used to wish actors good luck even though it’s literal meaning sounds bad omen.

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February 27, 2009


Here's to the ritual of raising glasses and proposing to drink in honor of someone or something special.

Ever wondered why the "toast-master" proposes a "toast" for the "toastee"?

It is believed that in ancient Rome, it was usual to put a piece of burnt toast in a wine glass. The reasons given for the practice range from adding flavor to the wine, to providing a "treat" at the bottom of the glass. The most plausible of them seems to be that it was a way to remove undesirable flavors from the wines, specially form the cheaper wines. As the practice made its way to England, the never-to-be-underestimated Englishmen added their own spin to it. Around 1700, it is believed that the British upper class began referring to the most popular lady at a party or a social gathering by putting a buttered toast, often with sugar and nutmeg in the butter, in a glass of wine to make it special. Once popular young ladies became the toast of the party, or of the town, raising your glasses to them became "toasting."

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January 07, 2009

To turn a blind eye

To turn a blind eye - deliberately overlook

Admiral Hortaio Nelson, better known as Lord Nelson, was blinded in one eye early in his Royal Navy career. In 1801, during the seige of Copenhagen Lord Nelson, second in command of the English fleet, was ordered by his superior Admiral Sir Hyde Parker to withdraw forces by flag signals. When made aware of such signals, Nelson deliberately put the telescope to his blind eye and said he could see no such signal. Thus, he ignored the order as if he had not seen it and ordered his forces to continue the attack. Luckily for him, English won the day.
Supposedly he remarked later that he had a blind eye and sometimes had a right to use it! :)

Even if Nelson did not exactly use the phrase "turn a blind eye" or invent it, the phrase is based on this event in his life.

Sources: Wikipedia,
Image: LIFE Images