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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‘a memory like a sieve’: meanings and origin

17th century—contrasts what the mind remembers with what it forgets (with reference to the opposition between the coarser particles, which are retained by a sieve, and the finer ones, which pass through it)—denotes an extremely poor memory (with reference to the fact that a sieve does not hold all its contents)

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‘mare nostrum’: meanings and origin

classical Latin ‘mare nostrum’, literally ‘our sea’: one of the names given by the Romans to the Mediterranean Sea—USA, 1824: any sea or other stretch of water belonging to, or under the control of, a nation

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‘gavroche’: meaning and origin

USA, 1863—a street urchin, especially in Paris, France—from ‘Gavroche’, the name of a street urchin in Les Misérables (1862), a novel by Victor Hugo

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‘parlour socialist’ | ‘parlour socialism’

UK and USA, late 19th century—‘parlour socialist’: a middle- or upper-class person claiming to be committed to the cause of socialism but not actually involved in the achievement of that cause—‘parlour socialism’: the claimed commitment of a middle- or upper-class person to the cause of socialism without actual involvement in the achievement of that cause

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‘parlour’ (attributive modifier): ‘parlour patriot’

‘parlour patriot’ (1797)—the earliest of the phrases in which ‘parlour’ is a depreciative attributive modifier used of a person claiming to be committed to a cause but not actually involved in the achievement of that cause—‘parlour’ is also used of the claimed commitment to a cause without actual involvement in the achievement of that cause

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‘armchair’ (attributive modifier)

The noun ‘armchair’ is used as an attributive modifier meaning: 1) based or taking place in the home as opposed to the world or environment outside; hence, chiefly depreciatively: 2) lacking or not involving practical or direct experience of a particular subject or activity.

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‘wetback’ and its sardonic variant ‘dryback’

USA, 1920: ‘wetback’: an illegal immigrant who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to the USA—by extension: any illegal immigrant who entered a foreign country by swimming—Mexico and USA, 1994: ‘espaldas secas’, i.e., ‘dry backs’: the U.S. citizens working in Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement

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‘Astroturf’: meanings and origin

USA—1966: an artificial grass surface used for sports fields—‘Astro-’: from the first use of Astroturf in the Astrodome stadium at Houston, Texas—1972, with humorous allusion to ‘grassroots’: an artificial version of a grassroots campaign

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‘kangaroo care’: meaning and origin

USA, 1990—a method of caring for a premature newborn in which a parent holds the infant on their chest in skin-to-skin contact—from the fact that kangaroos give birth to still-developing foetuses, then nurse them in their pouches

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