Questions tagged [phrase-origin]

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

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1answer
41 views

What is the background of the phrase “To get one's house in order”?

I know humans used to have "Houses" comprised of people rather than structures, similar to the Klingon fashion. House of Mogh, House of John, etc. Is this house of people the house that needs to be ...
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Where did “a racist bone in [one's] body” and “a mean bone in [one's] body” come from?

A recent tweet by the U.S. president includes this assurance: I don't have a Racist bone in my body! A blog post by David Graham, "The One Color the White House Sees Clearly" at The Atlantic ...
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118 views

Where did Shakespeare get milk of human kindness from?

In Shakespeare's 1606 play "Macbeth" the titular character is filled with ambition to become king. His wife, Lady Macbeth, says to him: Yet do I fear thy nature; it is too full o' the milk of human ...
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First usage of “honey pot” or “honey trap” in the context of espionage

I have seen both "honey pot" and "honey trap" used by le Carre and Forsyth in their novels, and as both are ex-spooks, I am assuming this was the terminology. It describes a person who is used as a ...
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82 views

Origin of the phrase “Don't rain on my parade”

I am watching the "Salute to America" parade staged by President Trump to celebrate the American Independence, and and given the weather, I was thinking about the idiom... "Don't rain on my parade" ...
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Phrase origin: “You ain't got to go home but you got to get out of here.”

You ain't got to go home but you got to get [the expletive] out of here. Variations of the above phrase are very popular and a common cultural reference — seen in many movies, TV shows and music ...
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How did 'phat' come to be used in music as slang?

most prominently things like ''phat bass line'', meaning a bassline rich in texture ie has a full sound. Appears to have originated in African American use?
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1answer
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Origin of the phrase ''Respect,man/bro. ''?

Respect bro!! , you never hear anything like ''Fear, man'' or ''honesty, man.'' used in the same sense, its interesting.
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1answer
60 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.
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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)
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324 views

When was the expression “Indian file” first used in English? [duplicate]

I have just discovered that the Spanish expression fila india translates word by word to a valid English expression: Indian file. And seemingly it is also valid at least in French (file indienne) and ...
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1answer
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What are the origins of “gender confirmation” surgery?

TLDR: What was the first use of the term "gender confirmation surgery"? Was it used before, after, or contemporaneously with the term "sex reassignment surgery"? An NPR article today (2019-05-16) ...
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What is the history of the idiom 'Sick as a dog'? [closed]

This phrase is often used but was intrigued to find out it's history.
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1answer
74 views

Where does the phrase 'Crazy as a Coconut' originate from?

I recently overheard someone referring to another person as being 'Crazy as a coconut'. I hadn't heard this phrase before so later on I started researching. My initial thought was that he had made up ...
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2answers
42 views

What is the origin of the phrase - “the world over”?

The phrase "the world over" was used in an article from The Economist. I'm curious to know its origin.
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1answer
118 views

What’s the origin of the phrase “pay attention”? Did one have to pay monies for this historically? [duplicate]

Does the phrase “pay attention” imply there used to be a fee for performing said action? If so, how would this be collected? In other words is “paying attention” objectively observable and therefore ...
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2answers
55 views

When was the term “reality” first used referring to a TV show?

According to Etymonline the expression is from the early ‘90, but they add no details: Reality television from 1991. Reality television as a genre appears to date back at least to the ‘40s as ...
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Does “ook” as onomatopoeia for the sound a monkey makes originate with Terry Pratchett?

I just recently ran into someone making the claim that the use of "ook" to represent the sound a monkey makes is a reference to the librarian from the Unseen University of Terry Pratchett's Discworld ...
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What is the origin of the phrase “(play) out of [their] skin”?

The phrase "play out of their skin" is frequently used in sports commentary, and to a lesser extent in describing exceptional performance in other areas, especially where physical exertion and/or some ...
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1answer
257 views

Origin of “sleep like a log”

In English you can say: sleep like a log (or top) Sleep very soundly. ‘I slept like a log until morning’ In Spanish we have the exact same expression, dormir como un leño, which is an ...
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1answer
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Knees up, Mother Brown

Going back to 1918, a popular bar song in London was “Knees up, Mother Brown”. Finally recorded in 1938, it was quite popular for a number of years. In this clip from Hullabaloo, we can hear Petula ...
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1answer
50 views

What is the origin of the phrase “The People's Champion”

What is the origin, or at least first use, of the phrase "The People's Champion" or "The People's champ?" Wikipedia has a list of people nicknamed the People's champion, but no comment on its origin. ...
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2answers
76 views

How do you parse “hair do”

Is "do" understood as a noun or verb in "hair do"? Asking this in search of "to make do". Bonus points if it can be related to German Tolle "tuft [of hair], that thing that Elvis had on his head", ...
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1answer
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Earliest usages of the literal and figurative sense of “window dressing”

The expression window-dressing, the skill of arranging objects attractively in a shop window is often used figuratively to refer to an act or an instance of making something appear deceptively ...
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1answer
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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-...
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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’?
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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 ...
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“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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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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“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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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 ...
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1answer
87 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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359 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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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): ...
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1answer
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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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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
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When was the expression “or something” first used?

What evidence of sentences ending with "or something" recorded ANYWHERE from 1800-1900 including in England, and what are the earliest written attestations during the 19th century in any of the U.S, ...
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1answer
100 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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190 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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642 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 ...
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1answer
85 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 ...
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1answer
684 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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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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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.
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206 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 ...
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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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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,...
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443 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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408 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
631 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?