‘Siberian Express’: meaning and origin

American English—a surge of extremely cold air which causes rapid falls in temperature and severe wintry weather in central and eastern areas of the United States and Canada—after ‘Trans-Siberian Express’, the name of a railway running from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan

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‘bush telegraph’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1863—originally referred to any chain of communications by which bushrangers were warned of police movements—soon extended to any rapid informal network by which information, rumour, gossip, etc., is spread

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‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’: meanings and origin

UK, 1808—to make one’s beliefs or intentions plain—from the former practice of nailing an ensign to the mast of a ship, after damage during battle resulted in the ship’s colours no longer being clearly displayed, which otherwise might have been interpreted as a signal of surrender

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‘cold turkey’ (as used of a drug addict)

USA, 1917—a method of treating a drug addict by sudden and complete withdrawal of the drug, instead of by a gradual process—alludes to the goose pimples, resembling the skin of a cold turkey, that a person experiences as a side effect of the treatment

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‘like billy-o’: meaning and origin

UK, 1860—very much, very intensely—‘billy-o’ occurs only in this phrase—it is apparently composed of ‘Billy’, pet form of the male forename ‘William’, and the suffix ‘-o’, used to form slang and colloquial nouns, adjectives and interjections

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‘Asbomania’: meaning and origin

UK, 2005—the perceived indiscriminate and excessive use by the authorities of anti-social behaviour orders—apparently coined by Álvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights—‘Asbo’: acronym from the initial letters of ‘anti-social behaviour order’

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