Pottering around – Poking around

Pottering around – To engage in gentle activities, in an almost aimless manner. I had thought this must have something to do with pottery but it turns out to be from the old English word ‘potian’ meaning ‘to poke’ so it’s really ‘to poke around’. The first reference to it being used in its current…

Phrase – Pushing the envelope

Pushing the envelope – The phrase is used to describe going beyond known limits, especially in aerospace related activities. This originates in mathematics; the term envolope describing the area under the line on a graph depicting limits – in this way, anything within the ‘envelope’ is within the limits. The term ‘flight envelope’ was first…

Patronise – To support someone financially

Patronise – is a homograph, with two seemingly very different meanings; it is to be a customer of a place (usually a pub) and to treat someone condescendingly. How has this word come to have two meanings which are so different? The origin of both is the Latin word ‘pater’ meaning ‘father’, it was applied…

Barbecue – little wooden shelter

Barbecue – well, we all know what it means, but search online and it’s hard to decide if it’s more of an event, a cooking method or a style of food (some mavericks even say it’s a certain combination of spices), add to that the fact that there is no clear winner for the correct…

Malingerer – Sickly ill person

A malingerer is someone who fakes illness to get out of something. The word comes from the French word ‘malimgrer’ meaning ‘to’ suffer’ and didn’t join our language until the early 19th century. The French word originated in the 13th century and combined two other French words; ‘mingre’ meaning ‘sickly’ and ‘malade’ meaning ‘ill’. Strange…