Wars and abuses seem to be a good breeding ground for the language. What follow are some examples.

In the English Civil War the city of Coventry was a Parliamentary stronghold. When Oliver Cromwell's army took Royalist prisoners, they sent them to Coventry, where if they escaped from execution, they would have a difficult life being shunned by the local people. So to be "sent to Coventry" is to be ostracised and ignored by everyone as a punishment.

When someone is "marooned", he is cut off from the civilization with no means of returning home. In the 17th century the word "maroon" was first applied to runaway Negro slaves who, being fugitives, made their new homes in places as inaccessible as possible.

If you are "sold down the river" you get a bad deal. This phrase comes from the practice of American sugarcane plantation owners of getting rid of troublesome slaves by selling them to other landowners lower down the Mississippi.

It is often forgotten that some children were seized in England and sold to plantation owners to work as servants in America. Thus, the word "kidnap" is composed of kid (boy) plus nap (steal).

It is not longer used the word "petard" except in the phrase "hoist with his own petard", the sad fate of that man lighting the fuse.

The expression "when balloon goes up" indicates that events are becoming critical. In both World Wars barrage balloons were used to deter low-flying enemy aircrafts. If a balloon was sent up, it meant that air attack must be imminent.

In November 1990 Margaret Thatcher "met her Waterloo": she was defeated in the election of the Conservative Party leader, and so resigned as Prime Minister. In the Battle of Waterloo the Napoleon's army was routed by Wellington's and Blucher's forces. It was the end of Napoleon, who abdicated four days later.

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