‘paper yabber’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1888—denotes a letter (i.e., a written message)—‘yabber’: as a noun, denotes speech, language, talk; as a verb, means to talk—from an aboriginal stem ‘ya’, meaning to speak

Read More

‘tickety-boo’: meaning, early occurrences and origin

UK, 1938—old-fashioned informal British-English adjective meaning ‘in good order’, ‘fine’—origin obscure: perhaps from Hindi ‘ṭhīk hai’ (‘all right’) or from ‘the ticket’ (‘the correct thing’); or it may simply be a purely fanciful formation

Read More

‘Briticism’: meaning and origin

USA, 1868—coined by U.S. critic Richard Grant White (1822-1885) to denote a word or expression whose original acceptation (preserved in U.S. English) was changed to one that he regarded as debased

Read More

history of ‘Emma Chisit’ and ‘Strine’

Australia, 1964—‘Emma Chisit’: ‘how much is it?’ (allegedly coined by English author Monica Dickens, who reportedly misunderstood the question posed by an Australian)—‘Strine’: Australian pronunciation of ‘Australian’ (coined by Australian author Alistair Morrison)

Read More

‘things are crook in Tallarook’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1941—used of any adverse situation—based on the rhyme between ‘crook’ (meaning ‘bad’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘unsatisfactory’) and ‘Tallarook’, the name of a town in Victoria—sometimes followed by ‘there’s no work in Bourke’

Read More

history of the croque-monsieur

France, 1891; UK, 1908—a sandwich filled with ham and cheese, and toasted or grilled—from ‘croque’, conjugated form of the verb ‘croquer’, to bite, to crunch, and the noun ‘monsieur’ (the reason that this noun was chosen is unknown)

Read More

‘English as she is spoke’: meaning and origin

broken English—UK, 1883—from ‘English As She is Spoke: or A Jest in Sober Earnest’ (London: Field & Tuer, 1883), title given to a book intended as a Portuguese-English conversational guide

Read More

‘Oxford comma’: meaning and origin

a comma immediately preceding the conjunction in a list of items—1978—named after the preferred use of such a comma in the house style of Oxford University Press

Read More