Episode #125 of the Stack Overflow podcast is here. We talk Tilde Club and mechanical keyboards. Listen now
76

English speakers have been calling white liquids “milk” since Old English. But please don’t drink spurge milk (i.e. its white, latex-like sap), since it’s poisonous: Wið weartan genim þysse ylcan wyrte [sc. spurge's] meolc & clufþungan wos, do to þære weartan.  Pseudo-Apuleius' Herbarium “With warts, take the wort (spurge’s) milk & clove-...


73

I found a few early instances where the use seems to refer to a significant chance, or even an exorbitant or undeserved opportunity, but this intended meaning appears to be rare and was rapidly overwhelmed by the figurative meaning. Here are a few of the clippings I collected where "fat chance" seems to mean a big chance: 1860 Isaac V. Fowler, the ...


56

Using Eighteenth Century Collections Online, I found this note at the end of an anti-Catholic pamphlet titled A Protestant's Revolution (Dublin, 1734), where other pamphlets by the same publisher ("S. Hyde, Widow in Dame-street") are advertised for publication. At the end of the list appears a nota bene: N. B. The above Books are sold cheaper by the Dozen ...


54

OP is mistaken about the exact meaning of the expression. It's not about acquiring "new" skills, but about how you got started on the skills you already have. Here's a definition from dictionary.com cut one's teeth on: to do at the beginning of one's education, career, etc., or in one's youth: The hunter boasted of having cut his teeth on tigers. It's a ...


50

The phrase is Irish in origin but now very rarely used in Ireland (except as a sterotypical "Irishism"). It simply means "the best of the morning to you" - perhaps from the idea of unhomogenised milk, where the cream rises to the top. An appropriate response might be a simple "thank you" although the traditional response would be "And the rest of the day to ...


49

I doubt the telecommunications usage of "last mile" has much to do with the figurative usage you cite. The original telecommunications use of the "last mile" is very concrete: It's the pair of physical wires that run between the customer's house and the telephone branch office. It's not always exactly one mile long, of course, but in a typical urban ...


47

Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition (2003) says that jerry-rigged goes back only to 1959. It speculates that the term is an amalgam of jury-rigged (dating to 1788) and jerry-built (dating to 1869). The jury in jury-rigged doesn't involve a panel of one's peers, however; it means "makeshift" and appears in the Middle English jory saile ...


47

The point is that Sigmund Freud supposedly saw sexual references in everything. If you are not familiar with the ideas of Freud, or with the associations people have with Freud, the quote doesn't mean much. Freud, the father of modern psycho-analysis, became widely know for describing mental problems that people experienced using classical references and ...


41

-ia is a Latin ending (-ία in Ancient Greek) used to form abstract nouns. In this case, the "abstract" noun referred to a nation, that is, a collection of people and the locations where they lived. For example, the land of the Germani was Germania.


40

There have always been “two birds in the bush” I did not find any references that showed there ever being more than two birds, possibly nestling, in a shrub. However, some claim that the version with which we are most familiar first appeared in the English translation of The Second Part of the History of the Valorous and Witty Knight – Errant, Don Quixote ...


37

'Brother company' - or 'brother (anything)' - would almost certainly be considered incorrect (in English). There's no logical reason why it should be incorrect, only historical. You're right that the first usage of "sister (object)" was probably for ships. I can't find anything earlier. We use 'she' to refer to something which we have so much affection for ...


35

Perhaps your dad added the "suey suey" part on his own, maybe for humorous effect? Wikipedia and The Phrase Finder both talk about the etymology of chop chop, meaning "hurry up" or "quickly, quickly!" A longer article at an NPR website says: Several etymological dictionaries trace the origins of the word to a version of pidgin English used on ships (...


32

The OED entry is instructive. Whilst it confirms the expression is obsolete (though I vaguely remember having heard it in my lifetime), I think the example given from 1877 comes as close as anything to explaining the etymology. The suggestion is that if a pot of tea turns out too weak, wives consider it fit only for their husband, not for it to be drunk by ...


31

From Hugh Rawson, A Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk (1981): Jiminy Cricket. The cute Walt Disney character notwithstanding, this is a euphemism for "Jesus Christ," on a par with Judas Christopher, Judas Priest, cripes, and jingo. The "Jiminy" comes from "Gemini," which goes back to at least 1664, and which may derive from the Latin Jesu ...


29

I found a reference that predates the Up movie by a good eight years, although I'm sure there must be older usages out there somewhere. In a 2001 Usenet post to the alt.fashion newsgroup, user Michele317 says: on a fashion note, he's refusing to wear what the vet calls an 'elizabethan collar' and what i call 'the cone of shame': that plastic ...


26

Those two words are normally found together when you talk about accessing internals of mobile OS (operating system: Android or iOS etc.). Also, just to make it clear, it is not a phrase or an idiom. Those are two individual words. root (You root a mobile phone by rooting process) "Rooting is a process that allows you to attain root access to the Android ...


26

According to the following article the idea of using terminology typical of marriage relationship dates back to the ‘30s. But the terms work wife/husband are relatively recent and date to the late ‘80s. Although the term “office wife” has been around since the 1930s, the modern definition, the one that places the “work spouses” in an equal ...


25

The first attestation of the phrase 'fat chance' I found is somewhat problematic, being in the 1778 (second) edition of Helenore; or, The fortunate shepherdess: a poem in the broad Scotch dialect, by Alexander Ross: Fat chance he furder had, she cud na tell, But was right fain, that she wan aff hersell. Some gloss: "fain" means 'glad'; "wan aff" means ...


25

The earliest variant of the phrase I could verify in print was 'cheaper in the dozen', from an article in the Hartford Courant (Hartford, Connecticut) of 24 May 1790 (paywalled, emphasis mine): In New-York the price [of Webster's Spelling-books] has commonly been thirteen shillings New-York currency a dozen, which is three-pence lawful money cheaper in ...


25

Though made popular by a song in the ’90s the expression appears to have originated a few decades earlier and it was probably just what bartenders used to say to clients who wanted to stay after closing time as the following source suggests: You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here” is what a bar manager might say to his last remaining ...


24

This was used in Theodore Cyphon, or, The benevolent Jew: a novel, Volume 3 by George Walker, published in 1796. The protagonist is greeted not long after landing on the shore of Essex: "Halloo ! you teney" cried one, " the top of the morning to you. Have you seen pass a tall chap, in a light blue coat, with striped trowsers."


23

Regarding who made "from zero to hero" popular during the 90s. This phrase was used as the tagline of the 1994 movie The Mask, starring Jim Carrey. The tagline is visible in this movie poster: It is also featured prominently on lots of The Mask merchandise, evinced by this Google image search. As you can see, it is featured prominently below the title on ...


23

As @WhatRoughBeast's answer alludes to, this a food labelling regulation issue not a linguistic one. In English it's completely correct to call nut milks "milk". Whether a jurisdiction allows you to sell them as "milk" is an entirely different matter.


21

The earliest usage I can track down is a quote in a 1986 Wall Street Journal article, by an IBM executive (just a few months earlier than the quote @Xanne found in the NYT, also about IBM)1: [Events for non-marketing reps] aren't as lavish, and fewer people are invited. "That's mainly because (others) don't have their skin in the game the way the ...


21

"And stuff" has been used in this way since the late 17th century, according to Green's Dictionary of Slang. The OED has this definition: Worthless ideas, discourse, or writing; nonsense, rubbish. Often coupled with nonsense (chiefly stuff and nonsense, †nonsense and stuff) with attestations from the 16th century, followed by this: phr. —— and stuff, ...


20

Green's Dictionary of Slang has the etymology of take the biscuit to beat all rivals, esp with the implication that the person, announcement, event, etc, is even more startling or appalling than might have been expected as the figurative sweetness or tastiness of the biscuit and relates this to take the cake, take the baker's shop, take the beer, ...


19

It basically means don't pick a fight with the press or media. It sometimes called "Greener's Law" and attributed to William Greener, but according to this page, it was Congressman Charles Brownson who coined it in 1964.


19

It appears to be from Persian and Urdu. https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/cheese#cheese_Noun_200 noun (in phrase big cheese) informal an important person: he was a really big cheese in the business world Origin: 1920s: probably via Urdu from Persian čīz 'thing': the phrase the cheese was used earlier to mean '...


19

SUPPLEMENTARY TO Silenus' ANSWER: The earliest instance of "zero to hero" I find in Google Books is from 1893, on page 5 of an "Address Before the Second Biennial Convention of the World's Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Twentieth Annual Convention of the National Woman's Christian Temperance Union" by the WCTU president and women's suffragist ...


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