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1066 was the year of the Norman Conquest of the Kingdom of England, by William the Conqueror (Duke of Normandy). On October 14,1066 the Battle of Hastings took place between William of Normandy and the Anglo-Saxon King Harold II. The Conquest changed the English language and culture, created one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe, and set the stage for a long future of English French conflicts. The Battle of Hastings was the last successful military invasion of England.


 Abraham’s Sacrifice – “To test this faith, Jehovah commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering; however, a ram caught in a thicket was provided instead just when Abraham was about to draw a knife.” (Reader’s Encyclopedia) Thus, an Abrahamic test is one which requires the willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice.  Since the point was to test commitment, once the person proves his willingness, the task is withdrawn.

(thanks to Mrs. Bett Huffaker on the ap listserve)


Ahab was a King of Israel who was married to Jezebel. She persuaded him to build a pagan temple, and allow idols into Samaria. Elijah the prophet challenged Ahab and his pagan priests on Mount Carmel. God sent down fire to ignite a sacrifice, but Ahab's priests could not do the same. Then the people realized that God was the only true God. Ahab is the monomaniacal captain of the Pequod in Melville’s Moby Dick.


 Albatross around one’s neck - This is a heavy load of guilt that becomes a barrier to success. This phrase comes from Samuel Coleridge's narrative poem, “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”  (1798), which is based on the widespread superstition that it is unlucky to kill this huge White Sea bird. In the poem, a sailor does kill an albatross, and when the ship then is marooned near the equator and runs out of water, his shipmates hold him responsible and force him to wear the deceased bird around his neck.


Auschwitz - Auschwitz is the name loosely used to name the three main German Nazi Concentration Camps and 45-50 sub-camps. The name comes from the nearby Polish city of Oswiecim. In the beginning of 1940, the Nazis built a number of concentration camps and an extermination camp in this area. These camps were a huge element in the Holocaust.


Big Brother - This expression derived from George Orwell’s 1984.This literary allusion refers to an all-powerful government or organization. They gain their control by examining and directing people's actions. Big Brother represents control.


Buddhism is the practice that does not include the idea of worshipping a creator god. Buddhism addresses itself to all people of different races, nationalities, or gender. It teaches practical methods (meditation) which enable people to realize and utilize its teachings in order to transform their experience, to be fully responsible for their lives, and to develop the qualities of Wisdom and Compassion.


Byronic - Byronic heroes were named after Lord Byron. Byronic heroes are often isolated from society and considered rebels. These heroes are characterized by heightened sensitivity, moodiness, arrogance, and confidence. Emotionally and intellectually, the Byronic hero is superior to the average Joe. He expresses a lack of interest in rank and status and is often unsuccessful in love.


Cain and Abel are the sons of Adam and Eve. Cain killed his brother Abel, making it the first murder ever. If you are referring to someone as Cain, he did some heinous act against his own family.

Camelot - the name of the stronghold of the legendary King Arthur from which he fought many of the battles that made up his life. Its specific location is unknown and may be a fake Romano-British province of post-Roman Britain.


"Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear"- This means if something is not good to begin with, then you will find difficulty in trying to improve it. From Jonathan Swift's "You can't make a Silk Purse out of a Sow's Ear."


Catch 22:  It is a dilemma where regardless of the decision a person makes, he or she is left in an impossible situation. For example, to jump out of a plane before it explodes, but having no parachute.


Chaplinesque -"Chaplinesque" is a poem written by Hart Crane. The poem is free from literary allusion and serves as an artist’s public testimony built out of recreated film sequences. The sequences of the poem are wholly composed of simple setting and gesture, and put together in a definitive plot: stroll, encounter with object in need of protection, discovery and accusation, evasions, unsuccessful comic escape and a recap. Gesture and movement is basic to the idea of the poem. The implied and symbolized capacity for art, sympathy, gaiety and failure is imagined as activity, but not personage. This poem and its style serve as a tribute to the simplicity of Charles Chaplin, as well as his qualities, and conveys his idea that poetry is like a "love letter to the world". Now, Chaplinesque refers to the qualities embodied in Charlie Chaplin’s films. He had a beautifully sweet, comedic side to him. His wit and sweetness often helps to surpass the impending doom in films. In the film, Life is Beautiful, the main character takes on Chaplinesque qualities and his nature builds up compassion in viewers for his character when he dies. Chaplin’s nature: his sweetness and his comedic ways are used in many different poems and films.


Cheshire Cat - an old simile, " He grins like a Cheshire cat" originated from the fact that cheese was formerly sold in Cheshire molded in the shape of a grinning cat.  Popular myth at the time was that the rodent infested town was a happy place for cats and you'd always catch one with a grin on its face.  The expression means to grin widely, or have a huge smile bearing teeth and gums, such as the Cheshire Cat's in The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.


Churchillian refers to any characteristics describing or favored by Winston Churchill. Qualities such as loyalty, duty, and responsibility were requirements by Churchill for every member of his staff. Churchillian traits are prized among world leaders because the give away a sense of diplomacy or righteousness. Churchillian warriors refer to the troops he commanded.


Cleopatra-like - Cleopatra is best known as the Queen of Egypt. Her ambition was set when Caesar appeared and was attempting to conquer Egypt for Rome. His plan was dismantled when a love affair arose with Cleopatra. Cleopatra then dominated Caesar but that came to an end when he was assassinated. Her next protector was Marc Antony; he was enchanted by her beauty and her wit. Soon enough that also ended when Octavian won the battle of Actium. Cleopatra was held captive and committed suicide. Her personality can be described as a strong ambitious woman that would do anything for her empire. Her intense personality captivated those surrounding her. She was very intelligent and in a way a sex symbol, using her beauty to get what she wanted.


The Code of Hammurabi - to refer to a set of guidelines as the code of Hammurabi in today's society, means that the set of guidelines depict proper organization in a community, the set of guidelines would establish consequences as well as rules.


“Cogito, ergo sum” - this was a famous saying from Descartes: “ I am thinking; therefore, I exist.”   The more traditional translation is “I think; therefore, I am.” Our existence is real because we are sentient, thinking beings.



“Crossing the Rubicon " - is a Latin phrase that derived from Italy. The Rubicon is a small river in northern Italy. When Julius Caesar attempted to cross the Rubicon in pursuit of Gaius Pompeius Magnus, he broke the law; no one was supposed to cross this river, and he gave "Crossing the Rubicon" its new meaning. This phrase was then applied to anyone who was going into a "no turning back" situation, knowing he was most likely not going to make it out alive, a dare devil.


Crown of Thorns - directly referring to the woven chaplet of thorn branches worn by Jesus before his crucifixion. The term "wearing a crown of thorns" usually means to bear a large burden or a sacrifice.


Currier and Ives- Nathaniel Currier and James Ives formed a highly successful business that put out popular prints from 1835-1907.  The prints included scenes of disasters, sentimental images, sports, humor, hunting, politics, religion, and city and rural life.


Cyclops – this is the name for Polyphemus who was the son of Poseidon and Thoosa, and who was a Cyclops. A Cyclops means, "round eye," which is a half human and half monster with one eye in the center of his forehead. The name is used today when describing people who are strong and stubborn.


Daniel in the Lion's Den - Daniel was a very smart man who won over the king by interpreting a dream with the help of God. Daniel prayed 3 times a day at an open window facing Jerusalem. Others were jealous of Daniel so they convinced King Darius to sign a law that said that no one could pray for 30 days. Daniel prayed 3 times a day anyway, not trying to hide it. The jealous people told on him and he was sent to the lions’ den as punishment. God shut the mouths of the lions and they caused him no harm. The king was happy that Daniel was alive; he began to pray to Daniels God. The jealous people that told on him were thrown into the lion’s den and ripped to shreds.


Darwinism - The term Darwinism refers to a popular saying “survival of the fittest” by natural selection. We are designed for an environment in which we are able to succeed. When we talk about Darwinism today we are referring to the evolution of species. It is named after Charles Darwin.


David and Bathsheba - David was a great king. One day, he saw Bathsheba taking a bath. She was married to Uriah, one of David’s soldiers. David committed adultery with her anyway. David was told she was pregnant with his child when her husband was away in a battle.  David sent Uriah to the worst battle, and he was killed. Later, God sent a prophet named Nathan to tell him that what he did was wrong. David and his family would have trouble for the rest of his life. 


David and Goliath - to call someone in today's society a David would mean to say that he was a small person or to call someone a Goliath would mean to say that he was an extremely large person. You can also refer to a company as a David or Goliath, meaning a small or large corporation. David slew Goliath with his slingshot even though Goliath was a much bigger man.


A Delphic Oracle - The most famous oracle in Greece is the Delphic Oracle. It is the location of the temple of Apollo. As the Delphic Oracle, a priestess went into a trance, supposedly breathed vapors from a cleft in the rocks, and delivered messages from Apollo to persons who sought her advice. Oracles are now known as people who tell the future.


Don Quixote:  Having a reference made to this character usually means that a person is putting himself up to an impossible task, like fighting windmills with a sword, or making a fool of himself because he refuses to see the reality of the world. The book was written by Cervantes.



Einsteinian - A great word for intelligence or even genius. It is derived from Albert Einstein, who has been regarded as the greatest scientist of the 20th century. He proposed the theory of relativity, made major contributions to quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics, and even won the 1921 Nobel Prize for Physics.


Emersonian - referring to Ralph Waldo Emerson's philosophy and creation of Transcendentalism. Established as a group of protestors towards the culture and society of intellectual learning in the 1800's, rebelling against Harvard University and the Unitarian Church. This soon became known specifically as "American Transcendentalism", not to be confused with "transcendental idealism" of European philosophers.


An Epicurean Flair - Epicurean Flair is a way of cooking that is healthy, but also sticks to the culinary pleasures of life. It is European ways of cooking. Epicurus was a god of good food and wine


Epistemology - The branch of philosophy that studies knowledge. Epistemology studies the difference between true or adequate knowledge and false or inadequate knowledge. This is also the study of things already known at birth and the knowledge gained through the mapping out of our surroundings.


“Et tu Brute?"-Came from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Caesar said this to Brutus: “You too Brutus?”  Brutus was very close to Caesar, so Caesar could not believe that Brutus had any part in the assassination.  It indicates the betrayal of a friend.


Falstaffian - This alludes to Shakespeare’s character Falstaff. In Henry IV Parts I & II. Someone who is falstaffian could be a thief or a drunk. A falstaffian type is always free spirited, and very comic. The character was resurrected in The Merry Wives of Windsor.


Faustian - Faust is the protagonist of a German novel about a man, who sells his soul to the devil, also named Mephistopheles. In turn the Devil serves him for a brief period of time, giving him omniscience. The book is called Faust by Goethe. There is also a play called Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe.


Fifth Column- The Fifth Column stands for a group of people who secretly undermine from within a larger group that is assumed to be loyal. The term originated from a radio broadcast by Emilio Mola, the Nationalist army general, in 1936 during the Spanish Civil War. Mola’s four army columns were advancing on Madrid and Mola referred to his militant supporters who resided in the capital as his “Fifth Column.”


Florence Nightingale - led thirty-six nurses to serve for the British military hospitals in Constantinople in 1854. To be called “ Florence Nightingale” is to be called compassionate, caring, and determined.


Gilgamesh - was the fifth king of Uruk.  Gilgamesh supposedly ordered the creation of the legendary walls of Uruk.  His son Urlugal and Gilgamesh rebuilt the sanctuary of the goddess Ninlil. Gilgamesh and Enkida fought the wild bull of heaven together and Enkida died in that effort.


Go to Mecca - all Muslims must make a pilgrimage to Mecca (if they can afford it or if their health doesn’t prevent it) at least once in their lives.  It has come to be a reference to making any kind of religious journey or saying that a place where a lot of people go is a “Mecca” for something- a Mecca for spiritualists, a Mecca for sports enthusiasts, etc.


Golden Fleece - The Golden Fleece came from a flying ram.  With Medea’s help, Jason stole it from her homeland leading to the death of her brother who pursued them.


“The handwriting on the wall” a Biblical expression in which the prophet interprets a message inscribed by the hand of God right before King Belshazzar was murdered and his kingdom was overthrown. God warned the people of Babylon about the wicked of the earth and his wrath to destroy all that refuses to follow Christ to the place of safety God has prepared.


Heathcliff - is a character from Wuthering Heights. He is a very dark and sinister person who seeks revenge from those who betrayed him. Some may argue that his violence comes from his inability to be with the one person he is madly in love with. He’s a good example of a Byronic hero.


Hegelian Dialectic - Comprising of three dialectical stages of development, a thesis, an antithesis and a synthesis, which resolves the tension between the two Hegel introduced this with a model of nature and history and made it as a fundamental aspect of the nature of reality.


Hickory - An allusion pertaining to a belief in Jacksonian Principles or Jacksonian Democracy. This type of democracy was named after our late president Andrew Jackson and pertains to the preference of gold and silver over paper money and agricultural interests over industrial. Jackson himself was known as “Old Hickory.”


Hitchcockian - Hitchcockian refers to how directors imitate Alfred Hitchcock's style of movie making in their own work. Thus, a “ Hitchcockian” style of filmmaking is one that embodies the style that Hitchcock used in his films. Hitchcock remains famous for his expert style and unrivaled control of pace and suspense throughout his movies. His films draw heavily on both fear and fantasy and are known for their humor. They often portray innocent people caught up in circumstances beyond their control or understanding. This often involves a transference of guilt in which the innocent character's failings are transferred to another character and magnified. Another common theme in Hitchcock’s works is the exploration of the compatibility of men and women. His films often take a cynical view of traditional romantic relationships. Hitchcock also preferred the use of suspense over surprise in his films because with surprise the director assaults the viewer with frightening things. However, with suspense, the director tells or shows things to the audience, which the characters in the film do not know, and then artfully builds tension around what will happen when the characters finally learn the truth. Further blurring the moral distinction between the innocent and the guilty makes this indictment clear. So when one is said to use a Hitchcockian style, it’s more or less a style that uses high suspense, humor, and innocent characters caught in situations beyond their control.


Hobbit-like - Hobbits are a race from J.R.R. Tolkien's middle earth universe in his book The Hobbit, and also in Lord of the Rings. They average between 2-4 feet tall, have slightly pointed ears, huge hairy feet, and are almost never seen wearing shoes. Hobbits are fond of farming, eating, socializing, and drinking. The term Hobbit-like has been used to describe people with similar attributes (short, hairy, big feet).


Holden Caulfield - arose from Jerome David Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. To be called a “Holden Caulfield” is like being called a cynical, troubled or even unreliable person.


Ichabod Crane:  Ichabod is a character (schoolmaster) in the story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. He is interested in Katrina Van Tassel and he courts her until he runs from the Headless Horseman who chases him all the way over the bridge near the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery.


“In the beginning”- this is the first verse of the Bible: Genesis 1:1.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”


“In vino veritas” - Latin saying that means: “ In wine, there is truth.”





Ishmael - The son of Abraham and Hagar, Ishmael, was the product of a decision made between Sa`rai, Abraham`s wife and Abraham himself. Sa`rai was barren and feeling displeased that she couldn’t produce a child for her husband, she arranged for her handmaid, Hagar, to be with her husband. In doing so, Hagar conceived. The angel of the Lord appeared unto Hagar after she fled from her master’s house giving her two instructions. One was to return to her master and the other was to name the child Ishmael because the Lord hath heard her afflictions. Several Arab countries trace their lineage to Ismael.


"It's Greek to me "- The actual term comes from the Latin phrase "Graecum est; non potest legi", which literally means "It is Greek; it can't be read". The modern term has been attributed to the play Julius Caesar. In Julius Caesar, it says "Those that understood him smiled at one another and shook their heads; but for mine own part, it was Greek to me". The phrase "It's Greek to me” means that something is not understood or is very unclear, as if one is trying to read the Greek alphabet.


Jacob and Esau - Isaac (Abraham’s son) and his wife Rebekah asked the Lord to help them so they could have children, and soon after that they had twins, Jacob and Esau. Esau, the oldest twin, was immature and carefree and loved to hunt; he was the favorite son of Isaac. Jacob, however, was more mature and more of a Godly man and was the favorite of Rebekah. One day Esau was hungry and stupidly sold his birthright, which gave him twice the inheritance as the other son’s as well as the spiritual leadership of the family. Later on Isaac was getting worse sight and decided that he was going to bless Esau after he came back from hunting. Rebekah feeling that it wasn’t fair that Esau would get blessed and Jacob wouldn’t, tricked her husband by putting animal skin on Jacob’s arms so he would think that it was Esau for Esau was very hairy. When Esau came back and found out that his father accidentally blessed Jacob instead and couldn’t bless him, he grew angry and decided that he would kill his brother when Isaac died. Rebekah, fearing this, suggested to Jacob and Isaac that Jacob should leave home and go to Haran to find a wife, and so he did.


Judas Iscarot - A character from the Bible. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ. He received thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus' whereabouts to the Roman soldiers. He identified Jesus by greeting him with a kiss. He then went and hanged himself.


Kafkaesque: This term relates to the writings of Franz Kafka. Two of these are emphasized in particular, his novel The Trial and short story “The Metamorphosis.” Kafkaesque is used to describe something that has no rhyme nor reason, causing extreme disorientation or confusion. It also has the meaning of distorting reality.


“Kill the fatted calf”- means to have a party or festivity. It’s usually in honor of someone coming back and tends to include a feast. It originates from the Bible story of the Prodigal Son leaving home and participating in futile activities to the point where he is desolate and is forced to return to his father’s home. The father welcomes him with open arms and throws a party in his honor and kills a fatted calf to feast on.


“The Lean and Hungry Look"  - This phrase comes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, referring to Caesar saying that Cassius has "a lean and hungry look". This means that he appears unsatisfied and hungry for power.


Lilliputian- this allusion relates to the distinctiveness of the inhabitants of Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels. The connotation that typically comes with this term is small, obtuse, inconsequential, petty or irrelevant.


Little Black Sambo - Not only a children’s book written by Helen Bannerman in 1899, it is also a dominant symbol in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The black Sambo is used to symbolize a white stereotype that blacks are often lazy and obsequious.


Little Bo Peep - is a children’s story that actually came from a young shepherd girl who got advice from someone much older than she on how to find her sheep after she lost them. The origin of the story is not noted but some say that it may have come from the Victorian era. The name Little Bo Peep came from the words bleat and sheep. The moral of the story is not to fall asleep and leave your sheep behind.


Little Jack Horner - Is the main character of an old nursery rhyme written in 1725. Little Jack Horner was also, said to have been the Steward to Richard Whiting, the Bishop of Glastonbury. The nursery rhyme focuses around an instance when Horner was transferring deeds to several estates, hidden in a pie, to a king. Horner stole one of the deeds to keep as his own, and because of this, Richard Whiting was charged with treason and hanged while Horner moved into his stolen estate.


Lothario- a character in the play The Fair Penitent, who seduces and betrays females. The name has come to mean any lecherous person, usually male.


Lucifer: Latin word for Venus as the morning star. One of the stories about Lucifer is that he led a war against the Djinns (dust forming fire) and felt he was something above the others since other angels could not defeat the Djinns. The Lord ordered all angels to obey the human he created out of mud, Adam. Lucifer disagreed and doubted God’s authority. He was the chief of angels who rebelled against God and was cast down to hell.


“Mad north by northwest " - was a famous quote by Hamlet. When hearing this one must think that he was truly insane but there was logic behind this statement. North means normal because it is straight ahead or up. "North by northwest" means that he is a little insane which makes him drift off slightly to the crazy side. Hamlet was said to have been along the lines of southwest, which meant that he was really crazy. South is the opposite of north and crazy is the opposite of normal.


Malapropism –incorrect (usually unintentionally and funny) usage of a word by substituting a similar-sounding word with a different meaning. Ex: "Then he laid prostate on the ground."(i.e., prostrate) The term comes from Mrs Malaprop, a character in a comedy called The Rivals (1775) whose name came from the English word malapropos, meaning "inappropriately". It was a very popular play, which is why her name became synonymous to the ludicrous misusage of words.


Manna from Heaven - It refers to the biblical story in which Manna is a sweet food that God provided each morning for the Israelites on their journey through the wilderness.


Mea Culpa - is a Latin phrase that means in English "my fault" or "my own fault". The origin of this expression is part of a traditional prayer known as Confiteor, or "I confess,"in the Mass of the Western Catholic Church. During this prayer an individual recognizes his flaws before God and expresses his willingness to make amends for them.


“Meet one's Waterloo"- This means to meet one's final and greatest obstacle and be defeated by it. This phrase comes from the famous Battle of Waterloo, where Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of the French, was finally defeated and exiled.


Mephistophelean - Mephistopheles is a prominent demon in the Christian world. His name in literature is usually an allusion towards the devil and devilish deeds.


Mosaic Law- The laws beginning with the Ten Commandments that God gave to the Israelites through Moses, it is given in the first five books of the Old Testament.




“My Kingdom For A Horse” - This quote is used in the play Richard III by William Shakespeare. In the part of the play a battle starts and Richard gives the most pathetic pep talk in English literature. Lord Stanley and his followers leave Richard at a disadvantage. Richard is soon unhorsed on the field at the climax of the battle, and utters the often-quoted line, ‘ A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”


The Muses: The Greek goddesses, daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who inspired all artists. They sat near the throne of Zeus singing about his greatness. They also sang of the origin of the world and its inhabitants and the glorious deeds of great heroes. Music, museum, mosaic were words derived from Muse.


Narnia - A fantasy world where animals can talk, mythological beasts roam and where magic is very common. It comes from C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia.


The New Frontier - it means to explore uncharted territory or advancement in any type of activity. It also means to be the first or leading man/group to discovery something in a relatively new arena. It originated from America’ s history when pioneers where discovering as well as colonizing the unexplored terrain that soon came to symbolize freedom.


Nihilism - Nihilism is a philosophical position that argues that the world, and especially human existence, is without meaning or value. Nihilists believe either nothing exists; the reality we humans experience does not exist at all as we see it; or reality is unknowable, and thus understanding externality will always be pointless.


Non sequitur: Latin for “it does not follow.” A logical fallacy; a comment, usually strange or funny, that is totally off topic and has nothing to do with the previous one.


"Not with a bang, but a whimper" – “This is the way the world ends… This is the way the world ends… This is the way the world ends.. Not with a bang but a whimper.”

Poet T.S. Eliot speculated that life on earth might not after all be terminated catastrophically, as in the impact of a large asteroid. Rather, we might depart slowly, quietly, and mournfully. Of course, Eliot was not thinking of asteroids -- no one foresaw impact havoc in his day. But, his use of the word "whimper" can be attached to another, much slower astronomical agent of planetary death: cosmic dust and gas.


Oedipus Complex: The attraction that a child feels toward the parent of the opposite sex. It usually occurs between the ages of three to five (the phallic stage of the psychosexual development of the personality) Freud was the first to define this.


Orwellian - The Orwellian term refers to a society much like George Orwell’s 1984. It describes a certain philosophy or idea with specific details on how that society should function. It is total control of a human being personal daily life and privacy. When we talk about Orwellian we are referring to Big Brother.


Pandora's Box: Pandora is said to be the first woman created by the gods. Pandora was taken in by Epimetheus who had no idea that she was created by the gods to punish mankind. One day, Mercury the messenger came to the home of Epimetheus and Pandora with a huge box rested upon his shoulders. Mercury asked to leave the box there for safe-keeping and Epimetheus granted his request. Pandora was curious as to the contents of the box, but when she asked to open it, Epimetheus advised her not too. Pandora became angry and even more curious until eventually, while Epimetheus was outside, she decided to open it. When Pandora opened the box out flew small insects which represented all the diseases, vices, sorrows, and crimes which Mercury had crammed into the box to reap their havoc upon mankind. With a sudden bit of compassion the gods placed one kind creature in the box. The last to fly out was hope, which to this day remains mankind's only comfort in misfortune and hard times.


Panglossian - The word Panglossian derives from Dr Pangloss; a character in Voltaire’s Candide known for his quote “All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.” Dr. Pangloss bewildered his followers with his optimism in the face of unspeakable tragedy. If horrible things occurred, it was ultimately for the best and nothing more. Taking his name literally, it means “ pan” all or every, while “glossa” means tongue or language. His name can be considered a glimpse of Voltaire’s real view of this character: all talk!. He was the tutor and philosopher of the protagonist.


Patience of Job: To be referred to as having the Patience of Job means one must have patience and faith in the Lord. In the book of Job, Job's faith is challenged by Satan. Even though Satan inflicts Job with boils from head to toe, Job still has faith in God. Therefore, no matter what happens, one still has faith in God.


Pearl Harbor - A surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii.  It occurred the morning of December 7, 1941. It was aimed at the Pacific Fleet of the United Sates Navy. The Japanese were responsible.


Pegasus: was a winged horse.. Pegasus is a helper because he aided Bellerophon in slaying the monster Chimera.


“A pound of flesh” - It relates to having payment, it is creditors that demand to have debtors pay them back at any length. It also means a necessary evil. This phrase originated from Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice; Shylock demands a pound of flesh when a loan is not repaid.


Predestination- Predestination is a religious idea that your path in life is predetermined for you. God’s decisions determine ahead of time what the destiny of groups and individuals will be.


Procrustes’ Bed: Procustes (“he who stretches” ) was a man who invited strangers to his home providing them with a meal and permission to rest in his special bed. Procustes said that the length of his bed was so unique that it could match the length of whoever laid down on it. However, if the person who lay upon the bed was too short he would stretch him out or even chop off his legs if they were too long.


Prodigal Son - Also known as “The Lost Son” is one of the best known parables of Jesus. The Prodigal Son refers to a son who returns home after squandering his fortunes. The term Prodigal Son has also passed into wider usage to mean a son or other dependent who does not live up to the expectations of those who have launched him or her into a life or career.


The Promised Land - Comes from Judaism; God said that he would give Abraham the land of Canaan if he leaves his home. "Canaan" is referred to as the promised land because it's promised to Abraham and his descendants. Essentially, it is used to refer to a place where people can realize their hopes.


Prufrockian - The word “prufrockian” is used to describe someone as being timid and/or shy. It is also used to demonstrate an indecisiveness and a habit of having unfulfilled desires. The word prufrockian comes from T.S Elliot's poem "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock.”


Puckish - This alludes to Shakespeare’s character Puck. It refers to a silly and clever type of person. If someone is puckish, he is a “ master of mischief” or a prankster. He appreciates a good practical joke and is very amicable.  It comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Pumpkin Papers - The Pumpkin Papers consist of sixty-five pages of retyped secret State Department documents. Documents dealt with a wide variety of subjects, including U. S. intentions with respect to the Soviet Union, the Spanish Civil War, and Germany's takeover of Austria. The name "Pumpkin Papers" comes from the fact that the rolls of 35-mm film were found wrapped in waxed paper inside a hollowed-out pumpkin.

Puritanical: This term relates to Puritans or Puritanism, and is to be especially strict with morals of the religion. Stern morality.


Pygmalion  - Pygmalion, in Roman mythology, was a sculptor. In this mythological legend, Pygmalion hated women, and, because of this strong hatred, decided to remain resolute to never marry. Ironically, he sculpted a statue of a beautiful and exquisite woman and eventually became enamored with her lifeless beauty. He longed for her to respond to his touch and caress. He therefore prayed to the Roman goddess Venus, begging her for a women exactly like his created statue. Venus, so deeply moved and affected by his devotion, granted his wish and brought to life the beautiful statue. Pygmalion named his now alive statue Galatea, and they quickly fell in love. She eventually gave birth to a son, Paphos. A Pygmalion is understood today as a man who "creates", according to his own standard, the perfect woman and falls in love with her.


Quisling - Quisling,Vidkun (1887-1945) Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian politician who conspired with the Nazi Party during the period of World War II. At first, Quisling endeavored, along with Fridtjof Nansen, to further humanitarian efforts in the USSR and Armenia during 1922 until 1925. He went back to Norway, devised a political party emphasizing its intense anti-Communist beliefs. However, he began to form ties and relations with a well-known Communist party, the German Nazis. His involvement with the Nazis led to the persecution of the Norwegian Jews. Due to his disloyalty and treachery towards Norway, his name, Quisling, has become synonymous for "traitor."


Rabelaisian: The term Rabelaisian pertains to Francois Rabelais and the characteristics of his writings. His heroes are rude and vulgar, using harsh language behaving in a digesting manner.

These traits are used to make his novels funny appealing to the disgusting side of human nature. Because of his offensiveness, Rabelais' works were banned by the Catholic Church.


Ramayana: ancient Hindu text.  Like Christians believe in Christ, Hindus believe in the birth of Rama who was the incarnation of the deity Vishnu.  Rama re-established the rule of Hinduism.  He was the ideal hero.


Red Herring – When an irrelevant topic is used to divert attention from the original issue in order to win an argument, it is called a “red herring.”

Topic B is introduced under the guise of being relevant to topic A (when topic B is actually not relevant to topic A). Topic A is abandoned.

Curing herring not only preserves the fish and changes its color, but also gives it a distinctive smell, and thereby hangs the modern meaning of "red herring." In training hounds to hunt foxes, these red herrings, dragged on a string through the woods, were used to lay down a trail of scent for the dogs to follow. There is also some evidence that red herrings were, later in the training process, sometimes dragged across the scent trail of a real fox to test the ability of the hounds to ignore a false clue and stick to the scent of the fox. From this practice comes our use of "red herring" to mean a false clue or bogus issue designed to confuse one's opponent.


Rhett Butler:  Rhett Butler is the handsome hero in Gone With the Wind. He is introduced in the novel as a problem-solving pragmatist. Whenever a disaster is about to happen, Rhett Butler rides in like a knight on horseback to come to the rescue. He is deeply in love with Scarlett O'Hara because of her strong will and determination to get what she wants. In an odd way the two are very alike. Rhett Butler is a rebel who is always out to make money and like Scarlett, he does what he wants without always considering the consequences.


Rip Van Winkle – It’ s a Dutch tale, which its protagonist is named Rip Van Winkle who fell asleep for twenty years and woke up thinking he had slept for only a day.


“A rolling stone gathers no moss "- The original meaning of this saying is that people that are always on the move, that is, having no roots in a specific place, pay a price. Another meaning for this expression is that people who are always on the move never pick up responsibilities.

The Rosetta Stone: The Rosetta Stone was created in 196 B.C. It is a stone with Egyptian and Greek writing on it. Its purpose was to honor the Egyptian pharaoh. It lists all of the things that the pharaoh had done that are good for the priests and the people of Egypt.


Ruth/ Naomi - Naomi, Ruth’s mother in law, lost her son to disease. Ruth, a widow now, stayed by Naomi’s side when she decided to go back to Bethlehem. Throughout their journey, Ruth was always there to help Naomi and never once complained. Ruth has come to symbolize a person who is a good and loyal friend.


Samson and Delilah - Samsons parents desired a son. An angel appeared to them and said he would be born under the Nazarite vow and would work for God. The Nazarite vow meant he couldn’t cut his hair, drink wine, eat grapes or raisins, or ever touch a dead body. Samson grew up and had the strength of many men. He fell in love with Delilah. The Philistines told Delilah they would pay her if she discovered the secret to his strength. Samson finally told her his secret, she cut off his hair. The Philistines burned his eyes out and held him prisoner. Years later, after his hair began to grow back along with his strength. He was sent to a festival to be made a fool of. The festival was held in a temple with all the political and religious Philistines worshiping a false God. With his strength he crumbled the temple to the ground killing himself and 3,000 Philistines.


Sancho Panza - He is Don Quixote's manservant in the novel Don Quixote. He is the practical peasant who accompanies the idealistic Don on his adventures. Sancho is a pleasant coward, more fascinated in material comfort and protection than in performing daring acts


Scheherazade - Scheherazade is a female Arabian storyteller. She is the wife of the sultan and she narrates the stories of the Arabian Nights. When a woman is referred to as “Scheherazade,” she is said to be a great storyteller.


Scorched Earth Policy - The “scorched earth policy” is an allusion to the times when Communism was at its most powerful. This policy's idea was for the specific dictator to destroy all the land and belongings of the enemy while advancing his/her troops. This way the enemy cannot salvage the property and land or use them against the communist country.


Scylla and Charybdis - In Greek mythology, Scylla is a 6-headed monster that eats the unfortunate sailors who accidentally come too close. Charybdis is a whirlpool and is considered a monster that sucks down a lot of water, including the sailors. If one is to say that you are between Scylla and Charybdis you are implying that you’re between the devil and the sea. You are between two dangers or two mistakes. You can try to avoid one, but you’ll end up at the other.


Simon Legree - was a harsh slave owner whose name has lived in infamy and is associated with greed. He is best portrayed in Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin in which slavery is its central motif.


Siren song - refers to an appeal that is hard to resist, but if heeded leads to a bad result. "Siren song" is derived from Greek mythology, in which sirens, or sea nymphs who lived on the island of Sirenum scopuli, would enchant approaching sailors with their singing and would lead them to sail onto the cliffs surrounding the island and drown. The sirens were also known as The Lorelai.


“A small still voice"- referred to as the voice of the Lord speaking to Elijah in Bible Story 100. Although the "voice" is not literally heard, it is known as the "voice of the conscience". After Elijah fled from Israel to the Kingdom of Judah, he was then accompanied by a brisk wind, signifying the Lord was present and telling him to return


Sodom and Gomorrah - Places stated in the bible to have been in the Jordan Valley. The cities people where committing so many sins such as sex, homosexuality, torture, gambling and many more. God saw this and wasn't pleased, so he told Lot, a good servant, to take his family and leave. When they left, God rained the city with fire and brimstone. When people say the names of these two places, it represents destruction and sin. Lot’s wife could not contain her curiosity and looked back.  God turned her into a pillar of salt.


“Song of Myself”  - is a poem written by Walt Whitman in 1881. This poem is a biographical poem in which Whitman describes the possibilities of union between individual people.


Split infinitive - A highly debated grammatical rule; it usually involves the use of an adverb between "to" and the infinitive of a verb. For example, the quote "to quickly run from one place to another" contains a split infinitive; the adverb "quickly" is inserted between "to" and the infinitive of the verb "run." The use of the split infinitive in English is thought to have originated from the French after the Norman Conquest, where much of the English language was being adapted from French. While the use of the split infinitive has often been said to be improper grammar, it sometimes helps to eliminate ambiguity in certain phrases or sentences.


“Star crossed lovers” - are those whose relationship’s downfall is inevitable. Those who believe in this term are strong believers in astrology and think that the stars control the destiny of humanity. The origin of this term and most highly known example came from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.


A stoic attitude - A person who has a stoic attitude perceives the world in terms of qualities or values. During an event or happening, a person who has a stoic attitude will understand the essence of what has happened rather than the actual step-by-step event. A stoic attitude is  associated with showing no emotions.


“Summa cum laude” -is Latin for "with highest honor"- Is used to indicate the level of a students academics when an academic degree was earned. It has been done in Europe since the Middle Ages. First done in America at Harvard in 1869.


Sword of Damocles. It originated from a story between a tyrant Dionysus and his obsequious servant Damocles. He always told the ruler how rich and powerful he was and how great his life was being so powerful and all. In reply to all this kissing up, Dionysus offered Damocles the chance to live as ruler for a day and see how ”glorious”\ it really is. He agreed. While enjoying the rich life, Damocles noticed a rather sharp sword above his head, held up from the ceiling by a very thing horses hair. Startled he asks Dionysus why the sword was there and the tyrant replied that this is what life as a ruler is really like.


Swiftian - Swift is an Irish satirist who is best known for Gulliver’s Travels and “A Modest Proposal.” His works were ironic and proposed many outlandish thoughts. He used his satires in pamphlets and sold them to the rich to make money.


Tao - in today's society, to call someone a Taoist means that they are cautious, alert, polite, yielding, sincere and receptive. In ancient China, Lao Tzu, who was in charge of the Imperial Library, wrote the Tao Te Ching.  It is one of the most influential books in history, filled with wise sayings such as “Those who know, do not speak, those who speak, do not know.” “Even a thousand mile journey starts with a single step.”


“There’s no joy in Mudville”- this is a line from the poem “Casey at the Bat” by Ernest Thayer.  It details the story of the great Casey who one day let everyone down when he struck out.  The phrase has come to mean any place or any situation where hard times or no joy exists.


“These are the times that try men’s souls”- These are the opening words of The American Crisis, a series of pamphlets written by Thomas Paine in 1776. These words are often quoted in troublesome times.  Hard times test our courage and resolve.


“The winter of our discontent”  - It comes from the play, written by Shakespeare, Richard III. From the beginning of the play, the opening words reflect King Richard's persona as a deformed angry man who hates the world whom he believe hates him.


Thirty Pieces of Silver -This is the money Judas Iscariot received for betraying Jesus to the authorities. He later threw the money into the Temple of Jerusalem and the head priests bought the “ potter's field” with it to be used as a burial ground for foreigners. This money is referred to as “ blood money” or money received for the existence of another individual. “Thirty pieces of silver”  is used proverbially to refer to anything paid or given for a deceitful act.


Thoreauvian - referring to Henry David Thoreau's beliefs of rebellion, and philosophy in the 1800's. Not only an out-spoken freelance writer of his time, Thoreau followed behind John Brown "the radical" abolitionist and fellow Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson.


“Throw pearls before swine” – Don’t give good things to people who can’t appreciate it, because they will only destroy it or criticize it, but they will never be grateful for it.


Trojan Horse - The siege of Troy by the Greeks lasted for ten years. Built by Epeius the Trojan Horse was filled with Greek soldiers led by Odysseus. The building of the horse was a cleverly devised plan that aided the Greek to get into the city of Troy. A Greek spy name Sinon managed to convince the Trojan that the horse was a gift, although warned by Laocoon and Cassandra, the gift was accepted. The horse was brought into the city and as the Trojans celebrated and slept in their drunkenness the city was pillaged and taken captive by the Greeks.

Nowadays Trojan horse is referred to as something that falsely appears beneficial but is indeed malicious. It is usually a computer virus that coaxes users into downloading it then in turn destroys the computer.


"Turn the other cheek"  - was a phrase said by Jesus to his disciples. It has been interpreted to be both literal and figurative. This means to not respond with violence; this is what pacifism is based on. In the time of Jesus it was the customary to slap someone of lower class with the back of the hand. If the person turned the other cheek, the discipliner was faced with a dilemma. The left hand was used for unclean purposes. So out off anger he would sometime punch the person in the stomach.


Uncle Tom - is a word used by blacks to describe other blacks that agree with the views of whites without being genuine and sometimes just to be accepted. The term Uncle Tom is best known from the novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The main character of the novel, Uncle Tom, is ridiculed by his peers because he remains loyal to his white master.


Veni, Vidi, Vici - these are the words that Julius Caesar was supposed to have said when he crossed the Rubicon.  It means: “I came; I saw; I conquered.”


A village Cromwell  -.the reference is to Thomas Gray’s “Elegy in a Country Courtyard” and refers to the idea that the humble, unknown people buried in the churchyard may have had the potential to be a tyrannical as Cromwell, the Lord Protector and bane of the Irish. In the poem, the speaker speculates on what fate might have befallen the inhabitants of the churchyard had they the education and the benefits of a larger world upbringing.  The reference speculates that in the cemetery lie those who could have been “Miltons” (gifted writers, public servants, inspirational men of power or “Cromwells” who never had the opportunity to become dictators because the rest of the line says they are “innocent of their country’s blood.”  The potential for great good or great harm went untapped because the rustic villagers never left their lowly paths.

(thanks to Mary Filak on ap listserve)


 Walden  - A non-fiction book written by Henry David Thoreau, well-known transcendentalist and environmentalist. It is mostly a critique of western society. Thoreau reflects on the beauty of nature and simple living while detailing a two year two month stay at Walden Pond.


“A Walter Mitty” - Walter Mitty is a fictional character in the 1941 short story “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” by James Thurber. Mitty is a mild, timid man who has a vivid fantasy life: in a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may- care killer. The term now appears to describe a person who lives a fantasy life.


“Water, water, everywhere "- These are lines from "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. When this is stated in the form of an allusion, it means that someone is in a situation in which he is in the midst of plenty but cannot use any of it. For example, in the middle of the ocean and one cannot drink any of the water.


Watergate  - Watergate, refers to controversial event and scandal. Richard Nixon's staff covered up a break-in of the Democratic Party’s National Committee office located in the Watergate apartment buildings. Nixon taped what his staff said about the cover-up and then refused to hand the tapes over in court. After he finally did, he resigned from office, and this famous scandal is known as the Watergate incident.


WCTU -The National Women's Christian Temperance Union. It was founded in Cleveland, Ohio in November of 1874. It grew out of the "Woman's Crusade" of the winter of 1873-1874. It all started after initial groups went to a lecture by Dr. Dio Lewis. They started non-violent protests against alcohol.  Liquor would be driven out of 250 communities within the first 3 months.


"What fools these mortals be" - The entire quote is "Lord, what fools\line these mortals be!" and is from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. This quote is from Puck, a mischievous fairy in the play, and is spoken to Oberon, the King of the Fairies. In this quote, Puck is commenting on the human condition and the humor he has derived from human beings entering his forest. Puck creates great confusion for the human beings through his terribly mixed up matchmaking when he puts magic love oil on the eyelids of the wrong person.


Wisdom of Solomon : King Solomon was asked to decide which one of two women was the real mother of a baby they both claimed.  Solomon instructed his men to cut the baby in half.  When one woman protested and was willing to give the baby to the other woman, Solomon knew that she was the real mother because she was willing to make give up the baby.  He then gave her back her baby.  That wisdom is the Wisdom of Solomon.


"Worship the golden calf" - This defines the worshipping of a false god. The golden calf was originally worshipped in ancient Egypt. According to Exodus (32:21-24), Aaron placed a golden calf at the foot of Mount Sinai in hopes of giving their people, the Israelites, a visible object to worship. However, Aaron's brother Moses accused him of sinning in which he ordered the golden calf to be burned.



Resource provided by R. Gold, Piper High School

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