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Questions tagged [phrase-origin]

For questions about the origin of a phrase. Also consider the 'etymology' tag.

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Origin of “[noun]-shaped object” as a negative phrase?

I've seen this type of phrase used in many different contexts to mean "something with the form of an object but lacking substance or quality". Examples: Wal-Mart bikes are sometimes called "bike-...
0
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2answers
62 views

Why do people use the slang “what’s your twenty?”to ask for location but not other code like ‘ten’ or else?

I know from the Wikipedia that the slang “what’s your twenty”comes from the term ‘10-20’ of CB slang. But I don’t understand why people used the code ‘10-20’ but not something like ‘5-15’?
2
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48 views

When and where did “Five in the afternoon” and “Five o'clock” become “5 p.m.”?

Consider this stanza from Byron's Don Juan: What then? I do not know, no more do you. And so good night. Return we to our story: 'T was in November, when fine days are few, And the far ...
2
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2answers
139 views

“Tinkle contest with a skunk”

What does the following idiom mean: "Tinkle contest with a skunk". And where was this idiom first used ? Does anybody know the origin?? Example: Yesterday, in an unsuccessful attempt to discuss ...
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0answers
54 views

What's the history behind the phrase “I hear Violins”..?

At work I often listen to Pandora with headphones on. Today it played a beautiful chillout track I hadn't heard in years: Conjure One - Center Of The Sun. The song lyrics use the phrase "I hear volins"...
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5answers
5k views

“Cheaper by the dozen” phrase origin?

Over on Politics.Meta.SE a comment by user Guest271314 asserts a repugnant etymology: ...You cannot expect readers to parse when you are engaging in direct communication or "colloquially" speaking. ...
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1answer
27 views

Origin of the saying “you can't put a price on sanity”?

This is something my mother used to say on a daily basis, and I grew up thinking it was a common saying. Today it occurred to me that I've never heard anyone else say it, and when I googled it, no ...
1
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1answer
32 views

What is the passage of time? [closed]

Regarding the term/phrase the passage of time: Is it simply referring to time passing (i.e. moving forward / passing by)? A metaphor to invoke imagery of a passageway (path, tunnel, channel, corridor, ...
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4answers
231 views

Why is a cold shower called a “Scottish Shower”?

A hot shower capped off with a cold rinse is often called a Scottish Shower. The expression appears to be closely related to Ian Fleming who used it in his novels, but it is not clear whether he ...
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0answers
45 views

Origin of parenthetical read, AKA “X (Read: Y)”

Something that I've been noticing more and more frequently is that sometimes writers will say something and then say (read: something else). For example (made up sentence to the best of my knowledge): ...
3
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1answer
52 views

Where does the term “to sock away s.t” originate?

I googled the words "to sock away" and came up with definitions aplenty, but no reference to the phrase's origin. Surprisingly, at least to me, was the suggestion, from Oxford, that it was a North ...
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1answer
74 views

Ginger for Luck

When I was a young lad a Rag and Bone man that was a regular visitor to our area used to recite a short ditty to me that started "Ginger for luck ginger for pluck ginger is never afraid" it went on ...
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1answer
33 views

When was the expression “or something” first used?

Is there evidence of sentences ending with "or something" recorded ANYWHERE from 1800-1919 including in England, and what is the earliest attestation during the 19th century in any of the U.S, England ...
1
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1answer
90 views

What is the origin of the expression “I'm a fast read”?

I have encountered the expression "I'm a fast read" in recent American literature, articles and blogs. I understand the meaning, but given its unusual phraseology (using read as a verbal noun), I am ...
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1answer
109 views

Origin of “Beating a dead horse”

The origin of beating a dead horse. Was this ever a common practice suitable for a specific purpose? Is it related to the desire to spur a horse into action?
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5answers
412 views

Origin of the saying “The hawk is out”

There is a brisk, chill wind blowing in my part of the world, and I was reminded of the saying: "The hawk is out" Some people claim it originated in Chicago in black communities, but I have only ...
0
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1answer
69 views

Where does the phrase “Lightness Races in Orbit” come from? [closed]

SE member Lightness Races in Orbit has a very nice turn of phrase as a username and I'm wondering where it originates. I can't find an existing usage of it by googling. All of the top results are ...
7
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1answer
256 views

Origin of “the grass is always greener”

Earlier versions of this well-known proverb, according to “writingexplained.org”, include: A Latin proverb cited by Erasmus of Rotterdam was translated into English by Richard Taverner in 1545, as:...
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6answers
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Is it technically correct to call an almond drink “milk” in English?

For the past few years in Italian supermarkets, we have all sorts of "healthy" and "organic" alternatives to dairy milk for vegans and for consumers who are lactose intolerant. For example; soy milk (...
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0answers
103 views

Etymology of “between a rock and hard place” [duplicate]

I don't find any of the origin stories posted for this phrase plausible. Has anyone scoured the many concordances of the English Bible? If the answer is no, I'll embark on the task myself.
4
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2answers
177 views

Origin of “name and shame”

According to Phrase Finder, the idiomatic expression name and shame was originally used as a noun phrase, From the Pennsylvania newspaper The Warren Ledger, October 1884: "None are ...
27
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3answers
2k views

The Etymology of “husband’s tea”

I am an English teacher. While teaching my students l am often asked about English idioms and their etymologies and meanings. As a rule, I can find the answers to their questions. But there's an idiom ...
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0answers
50 views

From Black Friday to Cyber Monday!

Sources available on line say that the expression “Cyber Monday” is just a few years old, dating its coinage to 2005: The term "Cyber Monday" was dreamt up in 2005 by a marketing team at Shop.org,...
3
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2answers
186 views

Are “phonics” and “Phoenician” related?

I was watching a history lecture recently, and the professor stated that after the Greek "dark ages," during which their previously used written language was lost and forgotten, a new written language ...
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3answers
373 views

When was the phrase “smoke-filled room” first used in politics?

Smoke-filled room is used in politics to mean: a room (as in a hotel) in which a small group of politicians carry on negotiations Merriam-Webster The phrase originated in the U.S. to describe ...
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1answer
257 views

Origin of: “I don't chew my cabbage twice.”

"I don't chew my cabbage twice." Is the origin of this phrase The Andy Griffith Show?
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3answers
2k views

What is the origin of the term “cone of shame”?

What is the first known use of the term "cone of shame"? This refers to the plastic cone affixed around dog's necks when they have had a procedure or medical condition. Wikipedia fails to shed any ...
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3answers
396 views

“and I'm the Queen of Sheba”

According to Longman Dictionary the droll comeback... and I’m the Queen of Sheba (humor) used as a reply when someone claims that they are famous or that they have done something impressive, but ...
5
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1answer
84 views

What's the origin of “hung for a toad”? Where is it used?

The phrase I have heard most often from my father usually went like this: Well I'll be hung for a toad! Where did this saying come from and has anyone else heard it? My dad's dad & mother ...
3
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2answers
155 views

Usage of the idiom ‘Crossing the Rubicon’

Wikipedia gives the following information on the search “Crossing the Rubicon” Julius Caesar's crossing the Rubicon river was an event in 49 BC that precipitated the Roman Civil War, which ...
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4answers
4k views

How does “A hit dog will holler” work as a metaphor?

Background: I, an Australian, once had a co-worker in North Carolina who would often use Southern-US idioms that confused me. I spent an evening panicked about how to handle "This dog will hunt" as ...
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2answers
137 views

What is the origin of “sink a drink”?

A recent query about the meaning of "sink my jig" led me off on a bit of a tangent. After finding a Jiggs dinner (it's a thing), I wanted to make sure they were "sinking" dinners and drinks back then ...
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0answers
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What does the phrase isn't/doesn't he/she just" originate?/

As The Machmillan Dictionary puts it this phrase is used for emphasis. For example: Person 1: Kate was angry with Mike for breaking her vase. Person 2: Isn't she just. This phrase sounds so ...
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2answers
136 views

What is the origin of the “once upon a time” idiom as the way to begin a fairy tale?

"Once upon a time" is the traditional way to start a fairy tale using the English language. But how traditional is it? I'm trying to find the first uses of this expression with this purpose. So far I ...
3
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3answers
257 views

What is the origin of the phrase “join the club/welcome to the club”?

I recently was having a conversation with an acquaintance in Russian, and she used the phrase "welcome to the club" as it would literally translate into Russian. Confused, I asked, "This is surely an ...
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3answers
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What is a “work wife”?

While watching the following video by Buzzfeed, entitled $1 Sushi Vs. $133 Sushi • Japan, one of the guests invited on the culinary road trip, a Japanese woman, used the expression “work wife”. ...
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2answers
147 views

Why do we say “forever and ever” when forever is enough

Why do we have to add the "and ever"? Does this phrase have some good old story of its origins?
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1answer
210 views

To let some of my cats on the table

While reading J.L. Austin's book How to do things with words I found this (to me) curious sentence: ... and here I must let some of my cats on the table... The context seems to imply that the ...
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3answers
187 views

Origins of '[politician's last name] derangement syndrome' and of 'derangement' in the sense of 'insanity'

In recent months, Donald Trump has characterized critics of his administration as suffering from "Trump Derangement Syndrome"—presumably, an irrational hostility to anything Trump says or does. The ...
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2answers
854 views

Where does the term “on the nose” come from?

Where does the term, "on the nose" (to mean accuracy) come from? Dictionaries such as Oxford Dictionaries list the expression both under "nose" and on its own page, but the only etymology they list ...
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2answers
295 views

Origin of “rank hath its privileges”

It's often seen with "has," but the frequent appearance of "hath" suggests the saying may be much, much older. Early Modern English always suggests Shakespeare to me, but my Google-fu hath failed me ...
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1answer
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What is “roots and hacks”?

I was reading comments on this website, and I stumbled upon such an expression: Roots and hacks and whatnot just to get a custom screensaver. I tried to google it, but I found just a couple of ...
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2answers
129 views

What is the origin of the term “bull****” in its figurative sense? [closed]

When/how did the word "bullshit" or the phrase "I call bullshit" (or its multiple variants) become acceptable in English? Was it a direct adaptation from another language or was it introduced in some ...
4
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1answer
104 views

Where did the term “flame war”/“flaming” come from?

I found this term on the history of Tanenbaum and Torvalds debate, but I couldn't find the origin of the term. I've understood the meaning (from UrbanDictionary): A flame war is a heated argument ...
6
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1answer
332 views

Is “ no news is good news” of Italian origin?

According to Phrase Finder, the origin of the famous proverb “no news is good news”: The earliest version of this familiar saying was attributed to the English King James I, who wrote in 1616, 'No ...
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2answers
94 views

How did “dial back” come to mean “to reduce pressure on sth”

In a recent article from CNBC they say: ”Trump will dial back his trade pressure if markets tank.” Dial back/down is defined by Longman Dictionary as an AmE phrasal verb meaning: to reduce ...
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2answers
109 views

What's the origin of “shot away”?

What's the origin of the phrase "shot away" as meaning a person is behaving in an unhinged manner?
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1answer
172 views

Origin of phrase “dollars to doughnuts” [closed]

What is the origin of the phrase "dollars to doughnuts", and what is the phrase trying to convey when most commonly used?
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2answers
506 views

Origin of the phrase “barking mad”

Can anyone nail down the origin and first usage of the phrase... “barking mad” (also, just "barking")? Basic research shows two possible answers: Barking, England supposedly had a mental ...
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4answers
1k views

Why do we say “give me five”?

Give me five, (together with its main variants such as slap me five, give me a five etc.) is a very common way greet or celebrate asking someone to hit their open hand against yours. Give me five! (...