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Is “used in anger” a Britishism for something?

Several years ago, a British friend of mine introduced me to the phrase "use it in anger." Until that time, I had never encountered the phrase in my limited travels in the United States.

My understanding from his usage is that it means to really use something, or try something out completely, or apply something to its fullest extent. (Feel free to correct me on this.)

I must confess, I actually like the phrase and tend to use it myself. My question is simply, where did it come from? I am guessing it is of UK origin, but what what the first use of it in anger?



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