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8 corrections, most recently by InstituteOfAustralianCulture - Show corrections


(From Brady's Varieties of Literature.)  

"A DAB AT ANY THING." — A dab is considered to   be a mere coruption of the word adept, which signi- fies a person far advanced or perfect in any thing, and is no other than the word adeptus. In the same way as a cute man is an abbreviation of acute, or the Latin actus, and signifies a person that is sharp, clever, neat; or, to use a more modern term, au fait, at the subject you happen to be speaking of.

"Art and Part." — A term used in the North of England and in Scotland. When any one is charged with a crime, they say he is art and part in com- mitting the same, i. e. he was both a contriver and acted his part in it. — Dictionary of Husbandry, &c.


"Dead as Chelsea." — Chelsea, a village near London, famous for the military hospital. To get Chelsea; to obtain the benefit of that hospital. "Dead as Chelsea," an exclamation uttered by a gre-   nadier at Fontenoy, on having his leg carried away by a cannon ball. — Dictionary Vulgar Tongue. 1788.

"As DEAD as a Herring." — The herring is a delicate fish, which is killed by a very small degree of violence. Whenever it is taken out of the water, even though it seems to have received no hurt, it gives a squeak, and immediately expires; and though it be thrown instantly back into the water, it never recovers. Hence arises the proverb "as dead as a   herring." — Anderson on the State of the Hebrides.

"Sleeps like a Top." — This we may say in fa- miliar language of a person completely under the in- fluence of Morpheus; and we generally imagine the   simile taken from the momentary pause of a peg-top, or humming-top, when its rotatory motion is at its height. But no such thing, the word top is Italian. Topo, in that language, signifies a mouse; it is the   generic name, and applied indiscriminately to the common mouse, field mouse, and dormouse, from which the Italian proverb,"ei dorme come un topo" is derived: Anglice, "he sleeps like a top." — Gent. Mag. 1793.

"Wise men of Gotham." — Gotham is a village in Nottinghamshire. Its magistrates are said to have attempted to hedge in a cuckoo; and a bush, called   the Cuckoo's bush, is still shown in support of the tradition. A thousand other ridiculous stories are told of the men of Gotham. — Dictionary Vulgar Tongue, 1788.

"True Blue will never stain." — Coventry had formerly the reputation for dyeing blues; in- somuch that true blue came to be a proverb, to signify one who was always the same, and like him- self. — Ray's Proverbs, 1737.

"To throw the Gantlet." — A proverbial phrase, signifying to challenge or defy. The ex- pression derives its origin from the days of chivalry, when he that challenged an opponent in the lists threw down his glove, and he that accepted the challenge took it up. The word gantelet is French, and comes from gand or gant, "a glove." The   gantlet was in use before the thirteenth eentury.

"To run the Gantlope." — A proverbial phrase commonly expressed, to run the gantlet, and signifying, primarily, a certain military punishment, and figuratively, the passing through difficulties. According to the erroneous pronunciation, the   hearer who compares this phrase with that which is the subject of the preceding article, is much at a loss to understand the word gantlet. The real words are these, "to run the Ghent-race." Ghent, gaunt, or gan, is a well known town, in Flanders; and loop, in the Belgic signifies a race. The gant- lope, or Ghent-race, so called because invented at that place, is this:— In the land-service, when a soldier is to be punished in this manner, the regiment is drawn out in two ranks, facing each, other, and each soldier having a switch in his hand, lashes the criminal as he runs along, naked from the waist   upwards; in the navy, the whole ship's crew is disposed in two rows, standing face to face, on both sides of the deck, so as to form a line, whereby the delinquent may go forward on one side, and return aft on the other; and each seaman, being furnished with a small twisted cord, strikes him as the passes. — Pocket Encyclopedia, by Kendal,


"He is gone to Pot." — The following article is extracted from the Instructions of Kikions king of Mazanderan, to the Prince his son, translated from the Persian by the celebrated M. Galland: A tailor   of Samareand, living near the gate that led to the burying-place, had by his shop-board an earthen pot hanging on a nail, into which he threw a little stone when any corpse was carried by; and at the end of every moon he counted the contents of his pot, in

order to ascertain the number of the deceased. At

length the tailor died himself; and some time after, one that was unacquainted with his death, ob- serving his shop to be deserted, iuquired what was become of him; one of the neighbours of the deceased   answered, "the tailor is gone to the pot as well as   the rest." — Monthly Mirror, 1799.

"The Vicar of Bray will be the Vicar of   Bray still." — Bray is a village well known in Berkshire, the vivacious vicar whereof, living under King Henry VIII. King Edward ,VI. Queen Mary, and Queen Elizabeth, was first a papist, then a protestant, then a papist, and then a protestant again. This vicar being taxed by one for being a turncoat, "Not so," said he, for I always kept my   principle, which is this — to live and die Vicar of Bray." — Ray's Proverbs, 1737.

Lord Eldon. — The Ex-Lord Chan-

cellor, on retiring from office in the year 1806,             addressed the bar at parting, after doubting   considerably of the dignity of such a step.   I have doubted," said he, "whether the   more dignified manner of parting would     not be simply to make my bow to you, and   retire." His Lordship, we presume, in the course of the 21 years from the time of his first going out of office in 1806, until his   final retirement last month, had removed his doubts as to the propriety of addressing the bar on this last occasion, and had decided that it would be more dignified not to make any speech at parting; since it appears that the only address he made to the counsel was that, several days before his last sitting, in which he "apologised to the public for what-   ever delays he had been guilty of," stating

at the same time that "his mind was so  

constituted as to have led to those delays which had been grievously felt by many."