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Origin of phrases and words is so fascinating.

IMAKE no excuses for liking words, which is probably why, if I had one, my pin-up would be Susie Dent from Countdown, who is described as a lexicographer, etymologist and author, and how sexy does that sound? Which is why I often find myself chasing meanings and derivations across the internet, where I discovered the nickname copper for a policeman dates from a time when the word cop meant to grab or capture. So they became coppers.

Living in Cloud Land comes Ancient Greek Aristophanes.

Living in cloud cuckoo land is much older and comes from an Ancient Greek play by Aristophanes where birds build a utopian city called Cloud Cuckoo Land.

Columnist Kilcommons In my career, I have worked as a freelance journalist but never imagined the term comes from the Middle Ages when free-lances were soldiers who fought for hire.

And cricket fans will be hoping England players win plenty of new hats this week. They used to be awarded when a bowler took three wickets in successive deliveries.

When Edward VI was only a prince, he apparently had his own whipping boy who, every time Edward was bad, was punished in his place. Just don't tell Donald Trump or he'll want one.

Then there is booby prize which, I admit, I thought might have something to do with the slang term of boobies meaning breasts.

Not so. That only came into usage in the 1930s. Booby is much older, going back to the late 16th century, when it meant dunce or nincompoop. It was first used in conjunction with a prize in 1881 in America, which a dictionary delightfully describes as acknowledgement of notable inferiority.

Cuckoo from an play by We're back to Trump again.

Denis This caused me to probe further on Amazon to see what was on offer as a booby prize: a wooden spoon on a plinth for golf, a donkey's head on a shield with crossed carrots (multi purpose award), chocolate breasts (inevitably) and a Resin Bottom Booby Prize on Marble Base for PS6 10p and 30 free letters of your choice engraved.

I can't mention Trump again, can I?

Living in Cloud Cuckoo Land comes from an Ancient Greek play by Aristophanes.

Columnist Denis Kilcommons


My pin-up Susie Dent

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Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:Aug 2, 2019
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