Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

DOWO: The “C” List


Onward we travel into the Dictionary of Word Origins, adventuring in the land of “C.”

What is the phrase “carte blanche” all about?

It once was the custom for officials, or personage of importance, to provide a trusted subordinate with blank paper with their signature. These signed documents could then be used as necessary. “White paper” doesn’t quite sound as impressive as the French translation carte blanche. “Just sign here,” takes on another meaning.


Why is the feline in Alice in Wonderland known as a Cheshire cat?

Alice probably didn’t realize that the cat she came to know in her dreamy adventure was sporting a grin that emulated the cheeses sold in the Irish Cheshire Country. These cheeses were molded to look like cats with very wide grins. Hmm, think there is a connection between Cheshire cats and why we say “cheese” tight before our picture is taken?

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Why is something that is a hint called a “clue?”

In middle English a ball of thread was known as a “clew” or “clue” and when applied to the story of Theseus, the way out of the maze was how he followed an unrolled ball of thread. Hint, hint the thread of logic is quite clear here in this story of how he unraveled his escape plan. Then again, what if the Minotaur was smarter?

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How is a disappointed person “crestfallen?”

Roosters carry into a fight their bright red coxcomb or crests upright, signaling their readiness and awareness The losing rooster runs from the fight with a drooping crest. Not having seen a rooster fight (or having a desire to do so) I remain a wee bit skeptical on this one.

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What is meant to “curry favor?”

In Middle English “horse ” is  favel, and to “curry” a horse is to groom it with a special comb. The results are usually a sleek looking horse. The idea here is for someone who hopes to makes a impression will do something noticeable like a groom hoping to catch his master’s attention might curry the favel. Sometimes the attempt is quite obvious.

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The Challenge: Can you create a sentence with the above sayings? Give it a try…Or at least one saying:

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7 thoughts on “DOWO: The “C” List

  1. The Cheshire Cat one is amazing!

    I’m not fond of cats, as you know, but that pink guy would make an interesting Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon. 😉

  2. Why skeptical? Have you seen a disappointed rooster? 🙂

  3. Most of those encountered are ornery. No fallen crests to speak of.

  4. I gave my mom the widest Cheshire grin you have ever seen as I tried to curry favor to have carte blanche ability to go to the party. I had no clue my method did not work until she said no, which left me crest fallen.
    Two sentences.. but hey! I used them all! 😉

  5. I was gonna do that but it would have been a run on sentence. I just can’t do bad grammer!!! LOL!! 😂😂

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