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2
votes
1answer
95 views

How long has the expression 'underage woman' been in use, and is it an oxymoron?

A blog entry posted today at The Atlantic online—"The Myth of the 'Underage Woman'," by Megan Garber—argues that "underage woman" is an oxymoron: The phrase is wrong in every sense: There is no ...
-1
votes
1answer
925 views

What do you call a person who does not stand up for themselves [closed]

What do you call a person who does not stand up for themselves? I'm looking for a word to describe how a slave thought of his kind back before the Civil War started. The word have to be a synonym to ...
1
vote
1answer
71 views

Artisanal whaling!? When did the use of artisanal start being used for activities not involving making fine products?

Wikipedia, Omura's whale uses the phrase Artisanal Whaling to describe hunting of whales by natives in the vicinity of the Mindanao Sea. Artisanal whaling As early as the late 19th century, ...
11
votes
3answers
816 views

Tennis: When and where did 30-all (and 15-all) start transitioning to the counterintuitive 30-up (and 15-up)?

At my tennis club in the suburbs of DC, about half the players (when serving) call 30-up when the score is 30-30, and the rest call out the more intuitive 30-all. To my mind, 30-up logically means ...
3
votes
1answer
238 views

What is the origin of the phrase “frank and fearless”?

The phrase “frank and fearless” is commonly used in Australia to describe the way public servants should advise the politicians they work for. This is said to be an aspect of the Westminster tradition....
14
votes
4answers
2k views

Origin of figurative use of 'ugly American' in the pejorative sense of 'ignorant, arrogant U.S. citizen abroad'

The expression "ugly American" evidently became famous through a novel—William J. Lederer & Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American (1958). The title character, Homer Atkins, although physically ...
3
votes
3answers
128 views

Hemingway: “to put your hat on even under the canvas at noon”

Welcome, recently I bought a book called "Winner take nothing" by E. Hemingway. As soon as I started reading I came across rather weird sentence, as follows Hadn't you ought to put your hat on ...
3
votes
2answers
290 views

Origin of “battle royal” and does it exist outside of professional wrestling?

I was reading an article on CNN about America's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, and read: A battle royal is shaping up in Tehran's corridors of power. I'm familiar with this term from ...
5
votes
3answers
823 views

Does the “boiling the ocean” date to the mid-1800s, or is it more recent?

I was reflecting on Lewis Caroll's "The Walrus and the Carpenter", considering the line: And why the sea is boiling hot-- from To talk of many things: Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax-- ...
3
votes
1answer
634 views

Is there an alternative way of saying something has been 'a topic of dispute"?

I want to write about the extent to which Malcolm X brought about any change to the Civil Rights Movement through his civil rights activism and that this has been 'a topic of dispute' among ...
1
vote
1answer
568 views

Did the phrase “to make money” originate in the English language?

I am currently reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand and I came across an interesting paragraph related to the English language and its history. If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of ...
8
votes
2answers
2k views

Did the phrase “final solution” for a form of genocide first appear with the Canadians?

Did the phrase "final solution" for a form of genocide first appear with the Canadians, or with the Nazis / Holocaust? The TVTropes "Final Solution" page explains the origins of the term: While ...
8
votes
1answer
2k views

What did we say for “it's like riding a bicycle” before we had bicycles?

Riding my bicycle the other day, I thought "having learned how to ride a bicycle in the past, for me the experience of riding a bicycle is just like riding a bicycle." And then I thought, what did we ...
4
votes
1answer
3k views

Why is “now and then” used to mean the opposite of its logical meaning?

Why and when did the expression "now and then" come to mean sometimes or occasionally? Logically it means just the opposite! "Now" and "then" means "presently" and "in the past", the future will soon ...
1
vote
2answers
3k views

“Houston, we may have a problem here” - Meaning?

I have heard this phrase many times in movies and people who use it as a pun in forums. What does this mean? Where did it originate from? When do we use it? There is a Wiktionary entry for a ...
0
votes
1answer
164 views

History of the phrase 'Nina from Carolina'

According to online dictionaries, the definition of this is "the sum of 8 and 1" or 9. What is the origin of this?
2
votes
2answers
216 views

Are there any special words or phrases for people that were emigrating in history?

Are there any special words or phrases for people that were emigrating in history (18th, 19th, 20th centuries)? Or maybe the words which were used in that time and how were people calling the ...
2
votes
1answer
634 views

Where do all the fox references come from? [closed]

A person can be crazy like a fox, and attractive lady is foxy or even a fox, an old book might have foxing, to outsmart someone is to outfox them, if you are confused you are foxed, and there are ...
3
votes
7answers
34k views

Is “I'll be John Brown” a common phrase?

The phrase: I'll be John Brown! is an occasionally-used term in North Carolina. Mostly thought to replace taking the Lord's name in vain (GD). Is it used elsewhere? How long has it been around?
3
votes
2answers
432 views

1902 use of phrase “giving a tiger” in the context of paying homage to the King's coronation

In Mrs Aeneas Gunn's autobiographical 'The Little Black Princess : A True Tale of Life in the Never-Never Land, 1905, she writes about previously celebrating the coronation of Edward VII in the bush. ...
0
votes
2answers
270 views

WWI Equivalent of “Gotcha!”

I am looking for an equivalent of "Gotcha!", "Made it!" or other exclamatory phrases a World War One Airplane Pilot may use. The specific name is Frank Luke, an airplane ace. He just got out after ...
2
votes
1answer
836 views

What would be 1850's equivalent of slang praise for being audacious?

What might an 1850's working class American man say as praise to another man for being really audacious such as equivalent of "You crazy mf" or "crazy ass"?
9
votes
7answers
8k views

Where does “my ass” come from?

The usage of my ass to mean me is now relatively common. My impression is that it originated from AAVE and has since been included in various other dialects. The NGram below implies it became popular ...
6
votes
3answers
47k views

why do we say “too bad”?

At first glance you'd think the correct use of the expression "too bad" would be in a conversation like this: Sure stealing candy would be bad but stealing candy from a baby is just too bad. But ...
2
votes
5answers
4k views

Did the CIA really introduce 'conspiracy theory' into popular usage after JFK?

I heard that after the JFK assassination the CIA, through assets in mass media, introduced the term 'conspiracy theory', with it connotations of something clearly ridiculous, and only believed by ...
-2
votes
2answers
8k views

Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
16
votes
3answers
21k views

What is the origin of “like a bat out of hell”?

As far as I know, this expression means to appear suddenly and in a scary way. But what is its origin? I heard that it comes from Meat Loaf's song but I'd like to confirm it with reliable sources, if ...
6
votes
3answers
23k views

Why do we describe a problem or experience as “hairy”?

I'm curious about the use/history of "hairy", as in Golly Dan, that was a pretty hairy math exam, wasn't it? My dictionary sources identify two definitions unrelated to hair: the first can be ...
8
votes
3answers
6k views

What is the origin of “So long”?

What's the origin of this strange substitute for farewell? We say it all the time, but I can't figure out its meaning.
1
vote
2answers
437 views

“Thunderstorm” vs. “tempest” in common usage

When did "thunderstorm" replace "tempest" in common English usage? I ask the question because my great-great grandmother, who lived in South Weymouth, Massachusetts, used the term frequently in her ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

Origin of the term “eating your own dog food”

I'm trying to find the first usage of the term "eating your own dogfood", as a reference to companies, especially software companies, using their own products in house in order to more effectively ...
0
votes
2answers
2k views

Was “their being followed” replaced by “they're being followed” over the years?

I was reading A Study in Scarlet yesterday and noticed the following sentence: They must have thought that there was some chance of their being followed, for they would never go out alone, and ...
1
vote
4answers
1k views

Origin of “A Great Man Once Wrote/Said”

I've seen many a quotation begin with A Great Man Once Said or A Great Man Once Wrote, and as I was writing something just now, I began with that before realising that I don't actually know where this ...
2
votes
2answers
2k views

What's the origin of the phrase “God's clean earth”, and how long has it been around? [closed]

"It isn't every day a man wakes up to discover he's a screaming bender with no more right to live on God's clean Earth than a weasel." - Dr. Leech, "Blackadder II" What's the origin of that ...
15
votes
6answers
14k views

Origin of “Put up your dukes”

This link claims that one cannot be sure of origin of this phrase. Three explanations are given here, but they are not very convincing (I am not a native speaker). In one of our newspapers, ...
8
votes
3answers
5k views

“for good” expression in an unfortunate event?

I just heard an expression while watching a TV series yesterday. Someone just died and they said: He is gone for good I googled it and found that "for good" means "forever" in this context. But ...
14
votes
4answers
2k views

“Yes marry have I” usage

I was looking through the original text of a popular nursery rhyme “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” in Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book when noticed an expression whose meaning I can’t understand: “Yes, marry, ...
23
votes
4answers
146k views

Where did the “unavailable” meaning of “Out of Pocket” come from? [duplicate]

The phrase "out of pocket" is often used in my office to mean "unavailable". I've found reference to this on the internet as well, but no obvious clue to where this meaning comes from. Where does ...
5
votes
2answers
3k views

What is the meaning, history, and current popularity of “of a Monday” (or Tuesday, or Wednesday, etc.)?

I was watching a 1934 Hollywood film today and one of the American characters used the phrase, Of a Tuesday. I don't think I'd ever heard an American use this in real life or in a film before then, ...
3
votes
1answer
2k views

What is the story behind “Get off my lawn”? [closed]

Often when someone wants to make a point that they are really experienced in the field they say something along the lines of, "I've been in this line of work for as long as your age, get off my lawn ...
14
votes
5answers
9k views

Origin/reason for the “hit by a bus” phrase

Often at my job when someone is becoming a single source of knowledge or otherwise has a skill that no one else on the team or the department has, a common expression is: If John was hit by a bus, ...
12
votes
3answers
8k views

Why (and since when) is prostitution called “the world's oldest profession”?

According to Wikipedia, the phrase the world's second oldest profession is "spying" and the world's oldest profession is prostitution. I was always raised with the understanding that prostitution was ...
5
votes
2answers
2k views

What does “bad-ass wives” exactly mean? Why did “bad-ass” come to mean “tough and aggressive”?

Time magazine carries the list of ‘Top 10 Bad-ass wives’ (in the world, or in history) in its July 21 issue with the lead copy: When a comedian tried to throw a pie in her husband's face, Wendi ...
5
votes
5answers
18k views

Origins of the phrase “You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”?

You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. This phrase is famously used in Subterranean Homesick Blues by Bob Dylan. The metaphor itself is so simple and powerful I'm sure it would'...
2
votes
2answers
769 views

Where does the term “make sure” come from?

I was reading the Mac OS X Lion upgrade page, and it said "make sure" all over the place. It struck me as odd. Where does the term "make sure" come from? What are you making to be sure? Yourself? ...
11
votes
6answers
33k views

Where does the phrase “get crackin'” come from?

"There's a lot of work to be done, so we'd better get crackin'" I've often used this expression, but I have no idea what we might have been cracking, originally? Any insight?
18
votes
5answers
111k views

Where does “ta!” come from?

Where does the expression "ta" come from? Wikipedia has only this to say: "ta!", slang, Exclam. Thank you! {Informal}, an expression of gratitude but no additional information or links about its ...