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Red-lattice Phrases

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Pot-house talk. Red-lattice at the doors and windows was formerly the sign that an alehouse was duly licensed; hence our chequers. In some cases “lattice” has been converted into lettuce, and the colour of the alternate checks changed to green: such a sign used to be in Brownlow Street, Holborn. Sometimes, without doubt, the sign had another meaning, and announced that “tables” were played within; hence Gayton, in his Notes on Don Quixote (p. 340), in speaking of our public-house signs, refers to our notices of “billiards, kettle-noddy-boards, tables, truncks, shovel-boards, fox-and-geese, and the like.” It is quite certain that shops with the sign of the chequers were not uncommon among the Romans. (See a view of the left-hand street of Pompeii, presented by Sir William Hamilton to the Society of Antiquaries.) (See Lattice.)

“I, I, I myself sometimes, leaving the fear of heaven on the left hand, … am fain to shuffle, to hedge and to lurch; and yet you, rogue, will ensconce your rags … your red-lattice phrases … under the shelter of your honour.”—Shakespeare: Merry Wives of Windsor, ii. 2.

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Entry taken from Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, edited by the Rev. E. Cobham Brewer, LL.D. and revised in 1895.

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