Tag Archives: economics
on toast

on toast

    The metaphor of food served up on a slice of toast is the origin of the phrase to be had on toast and variants, meaning to be cheated, to be swindled. It is first recorded in The St. James’s Gazette (London) of 6th November 1886: The judges in the High Court are always […]

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money for old rope

money for old rope

  Money for Old Rope SACKING, RAGS, OLD CAR BATTERIES SCRAP & SALVAGE Our Lorry Will Collect It Cash Waiting Grantham Salvage Co. INNER STREET. Phone 1332 advertisement published in The Grantham Journal (Lincolnshire) on 15th July 1949     The phrase money for old rope has various meanings: a profitable return for little or no trouble; a very […]

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the penny dropped

the penny dropped

    The British phrase the penny dropped is used to indicate that someone has finally understood or realised something. It was originally used with allusion to the mechanism of a penny-in-the-slot machine. The following, from The Leeds Mercury (Yorkshire) of 30th August 1911, evokes this mechanism: PAPER PENNIES. OTLEY LAD’S PRANK WITH AUTOMATIC MACHINE. […]

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A1 (at Lloyd’s)

A1 (at Lloyd’s)

    MEANING   first-class, outstanding     ORIGIN   Lloyd’s Register, historically Lloyd’s Register of Shipping, is an independent society formed in 1760 by a group of merchants operating at Lloyd’s coffee house in London, which surveys ships to ensure compliance with standards of strength and maintenance. The name also denotes an annual publication […]

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to be barking up the wrong tree

to be barking up the wrong tree

    Fess Parker (1924-2010) wearing a coonskin cap in Walt Disney’s 1950s television series Davy Crockett – photograph: AP       MEANING   to be pursuing a mistaken or misguided line of thought or course of action     ORIGIN   In Americanisms, Old and New. A Dictionary of Words, Phrases and Colloquialisms peculiar to the […]

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you can’t have your cake and eat it

you can’t have your cake and eat it

  title page of The Scourge of Folly (1611?), by John Davies of Hereford     The proverb you can’t have your cake and eat it (too) means you can’t enjoy both of two desirable but mutually exclusive alternatives. It made more sense in its early formulations, when the positions of have and eat had not been reversed. It is first recorded in A dialogue […]

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to nail (to the counter)

to nail (to the counter)

  Joseph Chamberlain (1836-1914), by Sir Francis Carruthers Gould (1844-1925), cartoonist and journalist – image: National Portrait Gallery     The verb nail is used to mean to expose or reveal the falsehood of an allegation, assertion, etc., especially to prevent further dissemination. This use is first recorded in An Oration delivered at the Celebration in Philadelphia of the 106th Anniversary of the Birthday […]

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peeping Tom

peeping Tom

  A drawing of Peeping Tom, in the exact state in which he is carved, but divested of all paint and superfluous ornaments. W. Reader in The Gentleman’s Magazine: and Historical Chronicle (London) of July 1826 The Coventry Peeping Tom statue, which dates from around 1500, survives today. Though it is now stripped down to the oak, […]

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milliner

milliner

  A Morning Ramble, or The Milliners Shop (1782) image: The British Museum     A milliner is a person (generally a woman) who makes or sells women’s hats. But a Milliner was originally a native or inhabitant of Milan, a city in northern Italy. The word is first recorded in this sense in an Act of Parliament in 1449: That every Venician, Italian, Januey, […]

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Brexit

Brexit

    MEANING   the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union     ORIGIN   A blend of British, or Britain, and exit, this term dates back to 2012. The form Brixit appeared in Bagehot’s notebook on British politics, in The Economist of 21st June: A Brixit looms MY PRINT column this […]

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