Monday, January 23, 2012

Know your English !! Part.VII

Pig in the Poke: A purchase made sight unseen. The phrase goes back to the old market custom of selling live piglets in a sack or ‘poke’. A dishonest trader might sneak a stray cat or dog into the sack, and the unwary buyer might be ‘sold a pup’; the buyer who opened the sack to check its contents might ‘let the cat out of the bag’

Pecking order: Hierarchy of power or importance in any group or organization: The phrase came from the behavior of chickens, where weaker or less aggressive individuals submit meekly to the pecking of stronger ones.

Parting shot: Final sneer or cutting remark at the close of an argument. The phrase is an allusion to the battlefield tactics of the ancient Parthians, an Asian people, whose warriors would run in the saddle while retreating and shoot a volley of arrows at the pursuing enemy.

Enfant terrible: person of unconventional ideas or behavior, who causes dismay to the established members of his group or profession. The plural is enfant terribles, pronounced in the same way as the singular. The term is French in origin, meaning literally ‘terrible child’.

White elephant: Large or impressive possession that costs more to maintain than it is worth, or an expensive project that turns out to be a failure. In ancient Thailand elephants with a pale hide were highly valued and their owners were required to pamper them. According to tradition, such an elephant might be presented but the king to a courtier who had offended him. What appeared a generous gift turned out to be a harsh punishment, given the cost of feeding and housing the animal.

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