origin of ‘Boxing Day’

from the verb ‘box’, ‘to give a Christmas-box’, i.e. to give a gratuity or present to tradespeople and employees—originally a box in which money was collected

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origin of ‘moonraker’

moonraker: a native of Wiltshire; from the tale that some of them mistook the reflection of the moon in a pond for a cheese and tried to rake it out.

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the straight and narrow

‘The straight and narrow’: allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. ‘Straight’ is an alteration of ‘strait’, meaning ‘so narrow as to make transit difficult’.

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over the moon

The phrase ‘over the moon’ means ‘very happy’, ‘delighted’. It seems to have originated in Ireland in the early 18th century.

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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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origin of ‘gas and gaiters’

coined by Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby (1839) in a comic passage in which an insane speaker makes a series of nonsensical statements

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origin of ‘to play possum’

‘to play possum’: American English, early 19th century—pretend to be dead, asleep, etc.—allusion to the opossum’s habit of feigning death when threatened

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pipe dream

pipe dream: American English, late 19th century—originally with reference to the kind of visions experienced when smoking an opium pipe

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to have a bee in one’s bonnet

This phrase is a transformation of ‘one’s head full of bees’, meaning scatter-brained, unable to think straight, as if bees are buzzing around in one’s head.

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