Tag Archives: USA

ball and chain

    The expression ball and chain appeared in the USA to denote a heavy metal ball secured by a chain to a person’s leg to prevent escape or as a punishment. Nile’s Weekly Register (Baltimore) of 12th December 1818 published the minutes of the proceedings of a court martial which convicted Robert Christy Ambrister […]

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sheeple

sheeple

  The Old Hokum Bucket (1949), by Ernest Rogers photograph: Etsy       MEANING   people likened to sheep in being docile, foolish, or impressionable     ORIGIN   A blend of sheep and people, sheeple seems to have first been used by W. R. Anderson in his column Round About Radio, in The […]

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soap opera

soap opera

  THE DOLEFUL COMPLICATIONS OF SOAP OPERAS are almost beyond explanation. Above is ‘Woman In White.’ Karen Adams (right) divorced Dr. Kirk Harding (left) because he had gotten her sister-in-law, Janet (on death-bed above), with illegitimate child. from the American magazine Life of 27th April 1942       MEANING   a television or radio drama […]

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alligator

alligator

  Bobby Charles – See You Later, Alligator (1955) photograph: Rebound Records     MEANING   a large semiaquatic reptile similar to a crocodile but with a broader and shorter head, native to the Americas and China     ORIGIN   This noun is from Spanish el lagarto, el meaning the and lagarto lizard, from […]

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queen’s cushion

queen’s cushion

      The expression was thus defined in Supplement to the Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language (1825), edited by the Scottish antiquary and philologist John Jamieson (1759-1838): Queen’s, also King’s, cushion, a mode of carriage, whether in sport, or from necessity. Two persons, each of whom grasps his right wrist with his left […]

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eggcorn

eggcorn

  photograph: Launceston Parish Wildlife Project       MEANING   An eggcorn is a word or phrase that results from a mishearing or misinterpretation of another, an element of the original being substituted for one which sounds very similar, as in to tow the line instead of to toe the line.     ORIGIN […]

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French leave

French leave

  Sandra Dallas     MEANING   an unauthorised or unannounced absence or departure     ORIGIN   The earliest (and most curious) instance of the expression that I could find is in the anonymous novel Benedicta (1741). The heroine is about to get married: Mrs Butler, who on this extraordinary occasion, had taken French leave of her […]

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pilgrim

pilgrim

  Canterbury Cathedral     The Latin adjective pereger/-gris, composed of per, through, and ager/agri, a field, a land, literally meant who has gone through lands, hence who is on a journey, away from home. From this adjective was derived the adverb peregri, peregre, meaning abroad, and to, or from, foreign parts. This in turn […]

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a stiff upper lip

a stiff upper lip

  first edition cover of Stiff Upper Lip, Jeeves (1963), by the English author P. G. Wodehouse (1881-1975) – image: Goldsboro Books     MEANING   a quality of uncomplaining stoicism     ORIGIN   The word lip occurs in phrases referring to certain actions regarded as indicative of particular states of feeling. For example, […]

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to chew the fat (or the rag)

to chew the fat (or the rag)

  Charley Tell-Tale Keeping the P. P. Gents on the broad Grin with his laughable Anecdotes illustration for Anecdotes (original and selected) of the Turf, the Chase, the Ring, and the Stage (1827), by Pierce Egan       MEANING   to chat in a leisurely and prolonged way     ORIGIN   In A Dictionary […]

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