‘curtain lecture’: meaning and origin

a rebuke given in private by a wife to her husband—1625—from the idea that, in order to conduct herself properly, a wife was to rebuke her husband in secret only, i.e., in the privacy of their curtained bed

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‘cupboard love’: meaning and origin

love or affection insincerely professed or displayed as a means of gaining a benefit or advantage—circa 1665—the image is of love given in return for food from a cupboard

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‘nincompoopiana’: meaning and origin

the affected dandyism of the writers, artists, etc., associated with the aesthetic movement, which advocated a doctrine of ‘art for art’s sake’—UK, 1879—coined by George Du Maurier in cartoons published in Punch

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‘yellow peril’: meaning and origin

the political, military or economical threat regarded as being posed by certain peoples of South-East and East Asia, especially the Chinese and the Japanese—UK, 1895—loan translation from French ‘péril jaune’

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‘to clutch the pearls’: meaning and origin

to react with shock or dismay, especially in response to something considered immoral, underhand or vulgar—USA, 1990—from an episode of the sketch-comedy television series In Living Color, broadcast on 15th April 1990

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‘holier-than-thou’: meaning and origin

self-righteously or sanctimoniously virtuous, or professing to be so—UK, 1834—alludes to the Book of Isaiah, 65:5: “Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou.”

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