‘a grape on the business’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1939—someone whose presence spoils things for others; an odd person out—of unknown origin—perhaps a variant of ‘gooseberry’, as in ‘to play gooseberry’—perhaps an alteration of ‘gripe’—perhaps related in some respect to ‘sour grapes’

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‘to jump one’s horse over the bar’: meaning and origin

The obsolete Australian-English phrase to jump one’s horse over the bar, and its variants, meant to sell a horse for liquor. The following definition is from an unpublished manuscript entitled Materials for a dictionary of Australian Slang, collected from 1900 to 1910, by Alfred George Stephens and S. J. O’Brien—as quoted by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020) in A […]

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‘government stroke’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1837—the deliberately slow pace of work characteristic of public-sector workers—originally used of convict labourers—in Australia as a penal colony, unease about the word ‘convict’ led to the creation of euphemistic terms such as ‘government man’ and ‘public servant’

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‘horror stretch’: meanings and origin

Australia—1954: a very unpleasant experience—originally, 1953: a particularly rough stretch of road on the 6,500-mile round-Australia Redex Reliability Trial of August-September 1953—hence, 1953: any particularly rough stretch of road

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‘Dickless Tracy’: meanings and origin

USA, 1963—a female police officer or a female traffic warden—puns on ‘dick’, slang for a man’s penis, and the name of Dick Tracy, a comic-strip detective created in 1931 by the U.S. cartoonist Chester Gould

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‘to run like a hairy goat’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1912—of a racehorse: to perform very badly—also in extended use and in the opposite sense—from ‘hairy goat’ (1894): a racehorse which performs badly—synonym ‘hairy dog’ (1908)

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‘grey meanie’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1970—a Melbourne City Council parking officer—the adjective ‘grey’ refers to the colour of those officers’ uniform; the noun ‘meanie’ refers to the nastiness displayed by those officers in the accomplishment of their duties

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‘cakeage’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1985—Coined after ‘corkage’, the noun ‘cakeage’ denotes, in a restaurant, the cutting and serving of a cake that has been brought in by a customer from off the premises, hence also a charge levied for this service.

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