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3
votes
1answer
38 views

Origin of the phrase “What's crackin'?”

My web search turns up accounts of it being Southern, Black American or/and Aussie slang. Would like some clarification on this.
0
votes
3answers
7k views

Origin of the phrase “stone cold loser”

I have googled but can't find any reference to this. Does anyone know the origin of this phrase (recently used by Trump to refer to the London Mayor)
-1
votes
0answers
42 views

When did placing “maybe” in a subsequent verb phrase become common?

While answering another question about maybe, I was reminded of the existence of a specific pattern of expression. Here are a few examples from the Corpus of Contemporary American English: "For ...
3
votes
1answer
122 views

Burning the candle at the other end

I came across this while reading "Along came a spider" by James Patterson. Chapter 48 begins with the sentence: The rest of that day, I burned the candle at the other end. Followed by: It ...
5
votes
0answers
179 views

What is the origin of “Panama schedule”?

"Panama schedule" describes an alternating 2-2-3 shift plan with 12-hour shifts over a period of 14 days, common in the military and some industries. What is the origin of this phrase?
3
votes
2answers
334 views

A twist of fate

I’ve spent the last few days savouring the phrase “A twist of fate”, either there isn’t much written about, or it is swamped by other people using it. From what seen on the internet it seems to be ...
2
votes
1answer
173 views

Why do we say “traffic jam”?

A thought occurred to me during a tedious journey yesterday, when travelling why do we use the word jam when describing being …caught in a traffic jam? It is just a queue, in this case, it ...
1
vote
0answers
51 views

Is there a name for this grammatical structure where a verb is followed by a direction?

In English there are lots of phrases where a verb is followed by a direction and it takes on a whole new meaning. Examples: get up, get off, get down, take in, take out, take off, etc. This is ...
2
votes
1answer
57 views

Is “blow wise to” a dialectal/archaic phrase? What is its etymology?

But blow wise to this, buddy, blow wise to this: Never play cards with a man called Doc. Never eat at a place called Mom’s. Never sleep with a woman whose troubles are worse than your own. Never let ...
1
vote
3answers
115 views

Origin of the adverbial phrase “all but” meaning “very nearly”?

The definition of “all but” means “very nearly,” but this makes no sense logically. For instance, if someone says “That word is all but forgotten” it means that whatever word the speaker is referring ...
1
vote
0answers
73 views

Origin of “walk and talk”

What is the origin of the phrase "(lets) walk and talk"? I have heard this being said explicitly in conversation, for example, when you're having a conversation with someone but you also need to be ...
3
votes
1answer
224 views

Origin and Use of “Do X a favour and do Y”

We see this phrase used in a purely literal sense: Do yourself a favour and have a word with your manager. Do yourself a favour and take a break. But we also see figurative or negative uses: ...
1
vote
0answers
60 views

Phrasal variations for “advance warning” and their origins

I just used the phrase "just giving you a heads-up" for the first time in years, and it got me thinking about the origins of the expression and variations of it. Heads-up (nominal) is essentially the ...
1
vote
2answers
480 views

What is the origin of the phrase “pet name” for a term of endearment?

I've looked up Wikipedia's article on Hypocorism, which states (emphasis mine): Hypocorisms include pet names or calling names, often a diminutive or augmentative form of a word or given name when ...
2
votes
3answers
335 views

What is the cultural origin of “Thrice Honored”

"Thrice-Honored Father", "Thrice-Honored Rulers" or the like. The term appears in the mid-nineteenth century books. For example: here and here and here and here. It has a classical feel to it -...
21
votes
4answers
6k views

What is the origin of the phrase “laundry list”?

Oxford English Dictionaries defines "laundry list" as follows: A long or exhaustive list of people or things. ‘a laundry list of people and organizations that would have to be won over’ I'm ...
5
votes
1answer
359 views

Is the “blue” in “blue moon” a reference to betrayal?

There are some previous questions on this site about the etymology of the phrase "blue moon" (What is the origin of the phrase "blue moon"? Any alternate phrase for it?, Why do we call some ...
-1
votes
0answers
247 views

Historical difference between begging vs. raising the question

According to pedants the world over, "begging the question" is often misused in sentences in which the speaker rather intended "raising the question" (e.g. Wikipedia, New York Times). "Begging the ...
3
votes
1answer
603 views

Where did “that really takes the biscuit/cake” come from? [closed]

One says that something or someone (really) takes the biscuit when it or they have done something that you find extremely annoying or surprising: For example: "she's opening your letters now? Oh, that ...
2
votes
0answers
97 views

What’s particular about an October kiss? [closed]

I bumped into this comic strip from long ago, which piqued my interest. Does an October kiss constitute something? Is it an autumn tradition, an ancient wizzardry enchantment, an October surprise, or ...
16
votes
4answers
3k views

Origin of 'finest hour' [closed]

How long has this phrase been around? I feel a bit cheesy using it in an essay because it reminds me of the film.
11
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the origin of the phrase “bad blood”?

I recently met someone who used this in the following way: ...you know I want to keep a good relationship with them. I told them I don't want any bad blood between us. I'd never heard this before, ...
16
votes
1answer
17k views

What is the origin of the phrase “This is why we can't have nice things”?

The phrase "This is why we can't have nice things" shows up in TV, films, and memes. I asked Google where it came from and got some specific examples that are too recent, like Jane Austen's Mafia! (...
1
vote
0answers
79 views

Ding ding I'm on the tram

My dad would say this if I helped myself to something with out offering him any. Such as a cup of coffee. Is this an English phrase?
15
votes
5answers
2k views

How did the informant bird become a “little bird?”

"A little bird told me..." is defined by Phrase Finder as: I was told by a private or secret source. The phrase in this exact form can be found pretty frequently by, for example, perusing online ...
1
vote
1answer
569 views

Where does “sit the throne” come from?

I've seen the phrase "sit the throne" in place of "sit on the throne." It's usually used in literary or poetic contexts, but it doeas appear to have "real" uses (right click any line to see combined ...
4
votes
2answers
446 views

Origin and Literal Breakdown of “Court-Martial”

The term "court-martial" refers to military institutions whereby those accused of breaking the law are brought to trial. This word is used in both the way we would use "trial" to refer to the ...
12
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin of “Armchair X”

Where does the term Armchair Psychologist come from? I understand it means someone who has no formal training who 'sits in their comfortable armchair' and gives (usually) unsolicited advice to others, ...
3
votes
3answers
942 views

Alas, my true love was “spoken for”

The words "spoken for" have an idiomatic meaning referring to things or people which have been "taken" in some sense. Cambridge Dictionary defines spoken for: If something is spoken for, it is not ...
3
votes
1answer
3k views

Is the meaning of “find” in the phrase “How did you find it” related to the meaning of “find” in other contexts?

Compare the following: How did you find the restaurant? It was excellent. I enjoyed my meal. How did you find the restaurant? I looked it up in a street directory. Asking, "How did you find [...
2
votes
2answers
88 views

What are these “THREE OPTION” phrases specifically called

Even though I came up with some pretty good categorizations, I'd still like to get the proper terminology! What I came up with: a) Conceptual Beliefs / Actions b) Philosophical Choices / Options ...
4
votes
1answer
1k views

What was the origin of the phrase “15 minutes of fame”?

I found it is usually attributed to the famous artist Andy Warhol, but also read articles that dispute it, such as http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2601226/Did-Andy-Warhol-15-minutes-fame-...
9
votes
2answers
4k views

How long is a piece of string?

I use the phrase How long is a piece of string every now and then, usually when somebody asks me when I'll finish some programming task that I haven't even looked into yet. I know what it means: ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

What is the origin of the phrase “pay attention”?

If this were a "modern" phrase, you could (perhaps) justify it based on psychological science, related to the usage of energy by brain activity, including putting attention into something. As such "...
7
votes
5answers
2k views

Did the expression “nothing to get hung up about” derive from “Strawberry Fields?”

In American English, I recognize the expression "nothing to get hung up about" as an idiom meaning, "nothing to worry about." Based on some googling, it seems like in British English the phrase "...
5
votes
1answer
344 views

What is the etymology of “do(ing) lunch?”

I read somewhere online that the phrase "to do lunch," or "let's do lunch," originated in the entertainment industry in the U.S., but the writer provided no source and I can't find any corroborating ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the etymology of the phrase: on my own / on your own / on our own etc

If you are doing something without assistance you can be said to be doing that thing on your own. Cambridge defines the phrase as follows: On your own If you do something on your own, you do it ...
1
vote
1answer
2k views

What is the etymology of the phrase “leave me be” [closed]

The phrase is synonymous with "leave me alone". I guess it's "leave someone/something be". I've also heard this as "let me be".
3
votes
2answers
114 views

Etymology of “altar of success”

I've been trying to find the origin of the phrase, "[so and so] sacrificed ... on the altar of success." I presume it is entrenched in some sort of religious background, but other than that I have ...
15
votes
6answers
11k views

Origin and usage of “safe and sound”

I've often wondered about the phrase "safe and sound." It seems like a common phrase that most English speakers understand, but it also seems quite old-fashioned to me. I read about it, and I ...
0
votes
1answer
79 views

Etymology of the phrase 'redress the balance'

It seems to me that the word 'redress' is seldom used without the word 'balance', so I was thinking that the phrase "redress the balance" might have origins in some trade or other, but I can't find ...
4
votes
3answers
9k views

Where did the term “fickle mistress” come from?

As you can see here, the phrase "fickle mistress" is quite common, especially in personifying something (life, love, time, etc). But I can't seem to find any real source on how far back it goes and/or ...
1
vote
1answer
5k views

“business up front, party in the back” etymology?

This is a phrase used to describe a mullet. The question is, did it exist before it was used to describe that hairstyle?
1
vote
1answer
2k views

Did the term “money shot” originate in the mainstream film industry?

The Wikipedia entry on money shot indicates that the phrase originated in the film industry in general, not just in pornographic films. Originally, in general film-making usage, the "money shot" ...
1
vote
3answers
2k views

Origin of 'wee hours'

What is the origin of the term wee hours? (Also small hours) Wee hours the early hours of the morning after midnight. (Oxford Dictionary of English) I also looked at Merriam, the Free Dictionary ...
31
votes
4answers
7k views

Origin of “queer as a clockwork orange”

While reading a recent Ken Follet novel, I came across the following, spoken in a gay bar set in early sixties London: "I am queer as a clockwork orange, a three-pound note, a purple unicorn, or a ...
10
votes
3answers
43k views

What is the origin of the phrase “History teaches, never trust a Cecil”?

I've come across the phrase "History teaches, never trust a Cecil!" in different places (among others, in the Netflix series "The Crown" with regards to Lord Salisbury). While the sentiment is easy ...
0
votes
1answer
225 views

When did “have it in” become “have it out”?

All my life, if a person wanted to do someone harm, their attitude was described as having it in for that person. Lately I have noticed that this has been turned around to having it out for a person. ...
-3
votes
2answers
1k views

What's the origin of 'Butter her up?'

What's the origin of 'Butter her up', i.e. to make her more amenable to my intentions? I think origin is plainly related to sex. We never use this term in relation to men, do we? I also think that ...
5
votes
1answer
14k views

Where did the term “Your Obedient Servant” originate?

In political letters throughout history, the closing "Your Obedient Servant" appears many times (For example, president Lincoln uses it in all of his letters). Where and how did this phrase originate ...