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 ‘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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the surprising origin of ‘under wraps’ (concealed)

USA, 1910s—originated in horse racing: ‘under wraps’ is used of a horse that the rider is holding back and intentionally keeping from running at top speed—not from the wrapping placed over newly developed machines before their official launch

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origin of ‘to crawl out of the woodwork’

USA, 1930—‘to crawl, or to come, out of the woodwork’: of an unpleasant or unwelcome person or thing, to come out of hiding, to emerge from obscurity; the image is of vermin or insects crawling out of crevices or other hidden places in a building

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origin of ‘apple polisher’ (a person who curries favour)

USA—‘apple polisher’ (1918): a person who curries favour with a superior; ‘apple polishing’ (1926): (an instance of) currying favour—with reference to the former practice of bringing a shiny apple as a gift to one’s teacher

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How a murder popularised ‘sugar daddy’ in 1923.

from ‘heavy-sugar daddy’ (USA, 1923), popularised by the murder of Anna Keenan (a.k.a. Dorothy King), who was a ‘heavy-sugar baby’, i.e., a woman ‘coated’ with ‘sugar’ (i.e., money) by a ‘daddy’ (i.e., an older man)

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origin of ‘decent’ (sufficiently clothed to see visitors)

USA, 1911—‘to be decent’: ‘to be sufficiently clothed to see visitors’; often as a coy or jocular enquiry ‘are you decent?’—originated in the question asked when knocking at the door of an actor’s or actress’s dressing room in a theatre

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origin of ‘the end of civilization as we know it’

first recorded in the United Kingdom in 1914, with reference to the civilizational implication of the German invasion of Belgium at the beginning of World War One; therefore, not first used by Orson Welles in Citizen Kane (1941)

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meaning and origin of ‘Dutch auction’

UK, 1788—denotes an auction in which the price is lowered by stages until a buyer is found—said to have been invented by the Dutch specifically as the best solution to selling tulip bulbs

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origin of ‘double Dutch’ and ‘High Dutch’ (‘gibberish’)

‘double Dutch’, 19th century—from ‘Dutch’ in the sense of a language that few people can speak, and ‘double’ as a mere intensifier—‘High Dutch’, 17th century—loan translation from French ‘haut allemand’ (= ‘High German’), used in the sense of gibberish

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origin of ‘Dutch treat’ and ‘to go Dutch’

USA—‘to go Dutch’ (1907): to have every participant pay their own expenses, or share expenses equally—via ‘to go Dutch treat’ (1887), from ‘Dutch treat’ (1873): a meal, etc., at which each participant pays their share of the expenses—from a German practice

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