"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Friday, 7 August 2009

Of the first water

To describe someone or something as being 'of the first water' is to indicate you hold them in the highest regard.

The phrase derives from the diamond industry. In the seventeenth century the degree of brilliance or lustre was described as its water and diamonds might be of the first water, second water and so on. Those of the first water were the finest and had the appearance of a clear, limpid stream. Although this method of grading diamonds died out in the first half of the nineteenth century the expression remains with us to this day.

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