origin of ‘quiz’ (“Vir bonus est quis?”)?

Originally meaning ‘person of ridiculous appearance’, ‘quiz’ (students’ slang, late 18th century) was jocularly derived from the Latin interrogative pronoun ‘quis’ in “Vir bonus est quis?” (“Who is a good man?”)—a good, ingenuous, harmless man being likely to become an object of ridicule or even of harassment.

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the nonsensical origin of ‘Kilkenny cats’

‘To fight like Kilkenny cats’ means ‘to engage in a mutually destructive struggle’.—from the tale of two cats fighting until only their tails remained (early 19th century), which was originally meant to be nothing but amusing nonsense.

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the authentic origin of ‘a pretty kettle of fish’

The phrase ‘a pretty kettle of fish’ originally referred to a net full of fish, which, when drawn up with its contents, is suggestive of confusion, flurry and disorder—‘kettle’ being a form of ‘kiddle’, a noun denoting a dam or other barrier in a river, with an opening fitted with nets to catch fish.

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the authentic origin of ‘to rain cats and dogs’

First recorded circa 1629 as ‘to rain dogs and cats’, this phrase is based on a cat-and-dog fight as a metaphor for a storm or hard rain; the theory that Jonathan Swift coined the phrase is ludicrous.

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‘until Nelson gets his eye back’: meaning and origin

UK and Ireland—with reference to the fact that Horatio Nelson was blinded in one eye—(1922) ‘until/when Nelson gets his eye back’ is used of a very long time in the future—(1933) the metaphor of Nelson getting his eye back is used of a very small chance of success

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‘every Preston Guild’: meaning and origin

UK, 1892—very rarely—refers to the fact that Preston Guilds are held only once every twenty years—Preston is the administrative centre of Lancashire, a county of north-western England, on the Irish Sea

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‘Queen Anne front and Mary Ann back’

UK and USA, 1889—used of anything that is speciously high-class in appearance, but is commonplace in reality—‘Queen Anne’ means ‘beautiful’, as opposed to ‘Mary Ann’, meaning ‘vile’; ‘low’; ‘mean’

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‘grotty’: meaning and origin

UK—a general term of disapproval, meaning ‘unpleasant’, ‘dirty’, ‘nasty’, ‘ugly’, etc.—shortened form of ‘grotesque’—first recorded in (and popularised by) A Hard Day’s Night (1964), a musical comedy film starring the Beatles

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‘Liverpool gentleman’: meaning and origin

UK, 1839—a Liverpudlian, especially as opposed to a Mancunian—from the 19th-century distinction between the Liverpudlians, who were involved in trading, and the Mancunians, who were involved in manufacturing

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‘antwacky’: meaning and origin

UK, 1975—old-fashioned; out of date—perhaps a humorous alteration of the adjective ‘antique’, perhaps punningly after the adjective ‘wacky’—or perhaps derived from ‘Ann Twack’, rhyming slang for ‘crap’

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‘am I bovvered?’: meaning and origin

UK, 2005—used rhetorically to express indifference to, or a lack of concern about, something—originally (2004) a catchline used by Lauren, a teenage girl interpreted by the British comedian Catherine Tate in the British television comedy series The Catherine Tate Show

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‘a fart in a spacesuit’: meaning and origin

UK, 1980—denotes someone or something that is unwelcome, unpopular, etc.—first recorded in a remark by the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly, but perhaps originated in Royal-Navy slang

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