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Merlan

(French). A whiting, or a hairdresser. Perruquiers are so called because at one time they were covered with flour like whiting prepared for the frying-pan.

“Madressant à un merlan qui filait une perruque sur un peigne de fer.” —Chateaubriand: Mémoíres à Outre-Tombe.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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More on Merlan from Infoplease:

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