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Alarms and excursions

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on September 30, 2008 at 21:34

In Reply to: Alarms and excursions posted by Rosemary Dean on September 29, 2008 at 20:02:

: What is the origin, meaning, and the original context of the phrase 'alarms and excursions'?

'Alarums and excursions' is an Elizabethan stage direction; Shakespeare and others used it. 'Alarum' is an old form of 'alarm', which derives from the Italian phrase "all'arme!" meaning "To arms!" 'Excursion' is here used in an old sense 'sally, sortie, raid'. The whole phrase used as a stage direction meant that all the extras dressed as soldiers were to dash about the stage shouting "To arms!" and generally giving the impression of exciting military action.