Tag Archives: USA
to foot the bill

to foot the bill

        MEANING   to pay for something, typically when the amount is considered large or unreasonable     ORIGIN   This expression, which appeared in the USA, uses the verb to foot in the following sense: To add the numbers in a column, and set the sum at the foot; as, to […]

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Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary

  Advertisement in the magazine Life – 17th March 1961 The Bloody María (anything vodka can do, Ronrico Rum can do better) The difference between a Bloody Mary and a Bloody María is the difference between Mary and María. María is Mary set to music. A Bloody María is easy to make. Simply use Ronrico […]

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once in a blue moon

once in a blue moon

      Unrelated to the phrase once in a blue moon, the astronomical term blue moon first appeared in the USA in August 1937: Maine Farmers’ Almanac used it to denote the third full moon in a season which exceptionally contains four full moons (as defined by the mean sun, each season normally contains three full […]

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to sell down the river

to sell down the river

  USA slave sale poster – photograph: Commonwealth Online       MEANING   to betray someone, especially so as to benefit oneself     ORIGIN   The phrase to sell down the river originates in the history of American slavery: the river was the Mississippi and down implied the transfer of slaves from north […]

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upstage

upstage

  The stage is divided into various areas and notated from the actor’s perspective looking out towards the audience. In large opera productions, the back portion of the sloped stage is elevated to facilitate better viewing of the company.  This is how the terms upstage and downstage evolved. Erik Sean McGiven       The […]

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to stonewall

to stonewall

  Thomas Jonathan ‘Stonewall’ Jackson (1824-63)       MEANING   To delay or obstruct a request, process, or person, by refusing to answer questions or by being evasive.     ORIGIN   In Australian political slang, the noun stonewall meant parliamentary obstruction and a body of obstructers. During a debate at the Legislative Assembly […]

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to vamoose

to vamoose

  frontispiece for Every Night Book; or, Life after Dark (1827), by William Clarke       MEANING   To depart hurriedly     ORIGIN   The verb to vamoose is an adaptation of the Spanish vamos, let us go, first person plural of the present subjunctive of the verb ir acting as imperative. It has […]

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‘VIP’

‘VIP’

  The VIP Express is the only C-54C made. In the past year it set six records in flying over 44 nations—whose flags are painted on its nose. magazine Flying – September 1945       The initialism* VIP stands for very important person, or, in the earliest recorded instances, personage or people. (* An […]

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wooden spoon

wooden spoon

  The last Wooden Spoon, presented in 1909 to Cuthbert Lempriere Holthouse source: University of Cambridge       MEANING   An imaginary prize said to be awarded to the person who is last in a race or other competition.     ORIGIN   At Cambridge University, an over-sized wooden spoon was traditionally presented to […]

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red tape

red tape

  bundle of US pension documents from 1906 bound in red tape photograph: Wikimedia Commons/Jarek Tuszynski       MEANING   Excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities.     ORIGIN   Woven red tape is used to tie up bundles of legal documents and official papers. A Dictionary of Law (eighth edition […]

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