origin of ‘once in a blue moon’

‘Once in a blue moon’ is a development from ‘once in a moon’, meaning ‘once a month’, hence ‘occasionally’—‘blue’ is merely a meaningless fanciful intensive.

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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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on errors in the Oxford English Dictionary

3 categories of errors exist in the Oxford English Dictionary: errors due to the fact that the contexts of the quotations are not always taken into account; errors perhaps due to lack of coordination between lexicographers; erroneous dating of quotations.

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meaning and origin of ‘to turn up one’s toes’

The phrase ‘to turn up one’s toes’, meaning ‘to die’, might have originated in the Irish-English phrase ‘to turn up one’s toes to the roots of the daisies’, first found in the passive form ‘with one’s toes turned up to the roots of the daisies’, meaning ‘lying dead’.

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original meaning of ‘to see the elephant’

U.S.—‘to see the elephant’: to see life, the world or the sights, as of a large city, to gain knowledge by experience. But in 1842, the original meaning of ‘to see the elephant’ was ‘to get sick and tired of something’.

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‘couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery’

In British slang, the noun ‘piss-up’ denotes ‘a heavy drinking bout’, and the phrase ‘couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery’ and variants mean ‘is’, or ‘are’, or ‘am’, ‘incapable of organising the simplest event, task, etc.’—phrase first recorded in 1980.

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origin of ‘fat cat’ (wealthy and powerful person)

Of American-English origin, the slang term fat cat denotes a wealthy, influential person, especially one who is a heavy contributor to a political party or campaign. The earliest occurrence that I have found is from an article published in The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) of 1 November 1925.

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origin of ‘red tape’ (obstructive official rules)

The noun red tape, meaning excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities, refers to the use of woven red tape to tie up bundles of legal documents and official papers; the literal meaning is first recorded in 1658, the figurative meaning in 1736.

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‘Atlantic’ originally referred to Mount Atlas in North Africa.

‘Atlantic’ originally referred to Mount Atlas in North Africa, on which the heavens were fabled to rest; it was hence applied to the sea near the western shore of Africa, and afterwards extended to the whole ocean lying between Europe and Africa on the east and America on the west.

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British origin of Gotham, nickname for New York City

Many centuries before becoming a nickname for New York City and the name of a fictional city associated with the Batman stories, Gotham was used in Britain as the name of a (probably fictional) village proverbial for the folly of its inhabitants.

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original sense of ‘chop and change’: ‘barter and exchange’

The phrase to chop and change means to change one’s opinions or behaviour repeatedly and abruptly. Here, chop originally meant to barter, and change meant to make an exchange with; in other words, this was an alliterative repetitive expression, the two verbs having roughly the same meaning (cf. also, for example, the alliterative phrase to be part and […]

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‘To go to pot’ was originally a ‘culinary’ phrase.

The phrase ‘to go to pot’ means ‘to be ruined or destroyed’, ‘to go to pieces’, ‘to deteriorate through neglect’. The allusion is to the cutting up of meat into pieces ready for the cooking-pot, as several 16th-century texts make clear.

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