Questions tagged [phrase-origin]

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

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3
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0answers
89 views

Why are ordinal numbers used to express fractions?

For fractional numbers other than n/2 and n/4 (which can also be expressed as n fourth/s), such as 1/3 (one third) and 7/10 (seven tenths), the denominator is expressed in the ordinal form of the ...
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“Put on the spot”, origins of the phrase [duplicate]

I was recently asked by my partner about the phrase "on the spot", with the meaning of suddenly being placed in a difficult or awkward situation. Both of us assumed that the origins of the phrase ...
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1answer
81 views

Was “drama queen” a gay slang expression originally?

According to Greens Dictionary of Slang the expression drama queen is a from gay slang and dates to the early nineties. (orig. gay) anyone considered to be making an excessive fuss or ‘making a ...
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1answer
57 views

Meaning and origin of the phrase “slips don't count”

I ran across this expression recently in some Popeye cartoon [EDIT: it was Never Sock a Baby, 1939], but it seems to have been a recognized slang expression with maybe even a bit of old-timey flavor ...
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75 views

Meaning of the phrase “theatre of pain” [closed]

This BBC article says Anfield has also been nothing but a theatre of pain for Guardiola since he arrived in England What is the origin of this phrase? It sounds quite gruesome. I'm aware of ...
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1answer
817 views

'A mind is like a parachute'—who coined this expression, and when?

I recently received a Facebook notification from an online quotation site, which attributed the following saying to Frank Zappa: A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open. I ...
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1answer
106 views

Where does the expression “money talks” come from?

According to the The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms the saying “money talks” meaning: Wealth has great influence, may derive from: The idea behind this idiom was stated by ...
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3answers
79 views

Did anyone actually use the expression “Go to Jericho!”?

https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/go+to+Jericho go to Jericho Go away. Oh, go to Jericho, you're annoying me here! I found this expression randomly. But I could not even find one ...
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1answer
58 views

When does the idiom 'breathed new life into' originate from?

My assumption is it derives from Genesis, but even if that's the case, what I'm really wondering is at what point did it become a common idiom in English, that could be used in contexts that don't ...
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1answer
112 views

The origin of the expression 'move heaven and earth'?

The link on an answer on this website (Going through a hard ordeal) states the first record of the hyperbolic expression 'move heaven and earth' to be 1792 but the link gives no precise details of ...
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What is the origin of the minced oath “Jiminy”?

Jiminy, by jiminy, jumpin' jiminy etc —used as a mild oath often in the phrases by jiminy, jiminy crickets, jiminy Christmas -Merriam Webster In a more innocent age, and long before the ...
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1answer
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What is the origin of the phrase signal improvement?

I have checked all the websites that collect info on phrase origins and none of them had anything to say about the expression signal improvement. Sending signals by semaphore and fires like in the ...
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1answer
360 views

Who ruled first, “girls” or “boys”?

A recent ELL question contains a catchphrase which is utterly novel to me. Boys rule, girls drool Wanting to know more, I searched online and found a female variant. Girls rule and boys drool ...
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What's the origin of the phrase “fatal dower”?

I recently ran across the phrase "Constantine's fatal dower," which sounded like a quotation, so I googled it. The specific reference to Constantine that started my quest comes from Canto XIX of ...
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298 views

Origin of “in your corner”?

I just wrote an email to a new friend and colleague from Rwanda, whom I am helping to find work in translation and interpreting. And I signed my email, “In your corner,” only later realizing she might ...
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2answers
155 views

The “open-ended Irish backstop” (Brexit)

Downing Street let it be known that May’s withdrawal agreement might after all be acceptable, if only the open-ended Irish backstop could be removed. Brussels in return let it be known that Johnson’s ...
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1answer
190 views

What is the origin of the phrase, “That’s for me to know and you to find out”?

I was just watching the preview for Blue Velvet (1986) and heard Kyle McLachlan use the phrase: “That’s for me to know, and you to find out”. I assume the phrase is probably older than that movie, ...
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2answers
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Origin of “Third Age”

A recent question on ELU made me realize that the idea of “Third Age” as defined below is used mainly in BrE and other European languages, while AmE speakers appear to be unfamiliar with it. the ...
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3answers
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How many birds in the bush?

There is a well known proverb, A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush However, I have discovered that the earliest English version of this proverb according to phrases.org.uk is found in John ...
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2answers
140 views

Where does 'talking through your hat' come from?

I've looked it up on phrases.org.uk, which gives the following quote as the first usage: This began life in the USA, in the late 19th century, with a slightly different meaning from the present one....
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1answer
167 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 ...
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1answer
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History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront? [closed]

History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront? How/ where did it come about? Who came up with it?
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2answers
119 views

Where did the term the last straw originate? [closed]

Where did the term the last straw originate? Was it something to do with rations in a war or what was it?
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1answer
122 views

Why have Jack or John have been used as euphemisms to refer to a toilet in particular?

I was watching an American show called Breaking Bad and they use this phrase: Can I use your John’s? to mean Can I use your toilet? As it stands the origin has been mentioned here, courtesy to ...
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4answers
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…down the primrose path

What is the origin of primrose used in the idiom primrose path, as defined by the Oxford Online Dictionary? primrose path The pursuit of pleasure, especially when it is seen to bring ...
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1answer
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Debygawd Cap-en! Where does this phrase come from?

I sought out this site because I need help finding the origins of a word/phrase that my family uses. We are from Southern Maryland, USA. The exclamation in question is 'debygawd.' I do not know how to ...
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1answer
51 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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5answers
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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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2answers
391 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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3answers
213 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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1answer
4k views

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
54 views

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
435 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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3answers
8k 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)
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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 ...
4
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1answer
78 views

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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2answers
130 views

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
669 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
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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
136 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
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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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846 views

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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0answers
119 views

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
967 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
157 views

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
140 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
106 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
118 views

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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