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February 25, 2013

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I would have thought that "colour the meerschaum" was about smoking rather than drinking.

Empty: You'd think so, but it isn't the case. "The phrase arises from an association of ideas--those in the first place of darkening the colour of a meerschaum pipe by steady smoking, and in the second, intensifying the hue of the nose by steady drinking. The colour harmony between the pipe and the nose above it is very droll, the hintful phrase itself a singularly good example of the keenness of the common people masking itself in a mock politeness which is worse than the plain truth."

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