‘nuppence’: meaning and origin

no money, nothing—UK, 1864, in a text by the British scholar D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson—from ‘n-’ in the determiner ‘no’, meaning ‘not any’, and ‘-uppence’ in ‘tuppence’

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‘squeeze pidgin’: meaning and origin

China, 1849—extortion—from ‘squeeze’, denoting a forced exaction or impost made by a Chinese official or servant, and ‘pidgin’ in its original sense of business

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‘pan-loafy’: meaning and origin

Scotland, 1941—of a person, manner of speaking, etc.: affectedly refined or cultivated, pretentious—from the fact that a pan-loaf (i.e., a loaf baked in a pan or tin, having a hard, smooth crust), being more expensive than a plain loaf, was considered a sign of affluence

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‘Mexican standoff’: meaning and origin

a situation in which neither side in an argument or contest can win—in early use: a situation in which a person loses their money, but saves their life—origin: an 1876 story in which a Mexican bandit robs a traveller from the USA, but lets him escape with his life

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‘toffee-nosed’: meaning and origin

UK, 1914—snobbish or supercilious—refers perhaps to ‘toff’, denoting a fashionable upper-class person—the image is perhaps of someone who, considering themself superior, keeps their nose high in contempt for the lower classes—cf. the form ‘toffy-nosed’ (1919)

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‘pound-noteish’: meaning and origin

UK, 1927—affected, pompous—from ‘pound note’ and the suffix ‘-ish’, meaning ‘having the qualities of’—the image is probably of someone who pretends to be worth a pound sterling when they are actually worth less

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‘to pile Pelion upon Ossa’: meanings and origin

1609—to add to what is already great, also to add difficulty to difficulty—Pelion and Ossa are two mountains in Thessaly—in Greek mythology, two giants, Otus and Ephialtes, tried to pile Pelion and Ossa on Olympus in order to reach the gods and overthrow them

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