Brewer’s Dictionary: D

I finally finished the D chapter in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable yesterday! There’s no reason it should have taken me that long. It’s only 63 pages (the 10th longest chapter), but, for the first time since starting this project on January 1st, I had a week where I didn’t read anything! I know, what a slacker.

Anyway, here are some interesting things that start with D:

I always think of jeans as being super American, but it turns out denim is from France:

Denims–Coloured twilled cotton material used for overalls and, especially, jeans. Its name is a contraction of French serge de Nimes (‘serge of Nimes’), from the town in the south of France where it was originally made.

Tres chic!

Tres chic!

I read a book once about animal trials, where olde timey law courts would try animals for murder. Once even a swarm of flies! Apparently, even if you weren’t going to seek punishment for some animal or inanimate object killing a relative, that thing was still considered cursed, and you had to sell it:

Deodand–Literally, something that should be given to God (Latin, Deo dandum). In former English law a personal possession that was responsible for the death of an individual was forfeited to the crown for some pious use. For example, if a man met his death from the fall of a ladder or the kick of a horse, the cause of death (the ladder or the horse) was sold and the proceeds given to the church. It originated from the idea that, as the victim met his death without the sacrament of extreme unction, the money could serve to pay for masses for his repose. Deodands were abolished in 1862.

Also, some bad news:

Devil’s livery–Black and yellow: black for death, yellow for quarantine.

Sorry Steelers fans, Wiessmen, and Hufflepuffs

Sorry Steelers fans, Wiessmen, and Hufflepuffs

I like learning word origins from Brewer’s, especially when the word has changed meaning pretty dramatically:

Double-cross–Properly, to cheat or cross each of two parties, to betray both sides

Of course, this original meaning makes way more sense!

And another ridiculous story brought to you by history’s first troll:

The Druid’s egg–According to Pliny, who claimed to possess one, this wonderful egg was hatched by the joint labour of several serpents and was buoyed in the air by their hissing. The person who caught it had to escape at full speed to avoid being stung to death, but the possessor was sure to prevail in every contest and to be courted by those in power

Okay, Pliny, whatever you say

Okay, Pliny, whatever you say

And finally:

The Drunk Parliament–The Parliament assembled at Edinburgh in January 1661, of which Burnet says the members ‘were almost perpetually drunk’.

Previously: C
Next: E

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