‘tiswas’: meaning and origin

UK, 1938—a state of nervous agitation or confusion; also, occasionally: a state of physical disorder or chaos—of unknown origin; perhaps a fanciful variant of the synonymous noun ‘tizz’

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‘lightbulb moment’: meaning and origin

USA, 1974—a moment of sudden realisation, enlightenment or inspiration—alludes to the representation of an illuminated lightbulb above a character’s head in a cartoon or comic strip, indicating that this character has had an idea

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‘Mr. Plod’: meaning and origin

UK, 1963—‘Mr. Plod’, also ‘P.C. Plod’, ‘Plod’: a humorous or mildly derogatory appellation for a policeman or for the police—alludes to ‘Mr. Plod’, the name of the policeman in stories by the English author of children’s fiction Enid Blyton

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‘gobsmacked’: meaning and origin

‘flabbergasted’, ‘astounded’—1925, Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, north-eastern England—in reference to the shock effect of being struck in the mouth, from the noun ‘gob’, denoting ‘the mouth’, and the adjective ‘smacked’, meaning ‘struck’

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‘caught in the headlights’: meanings and origin

used of a person who is frozen with fright or surprise, or is trying to flee, as a result of suddenly becoming the focus of attention—alludes to the habit of deer and rabbits of stopping still when dazzled by the headlights of a motor vehicle, or of running away within the headlight beam

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notes on the noun ‘Goddam’

designates an Englishman—originated among the French, from the fact that they regarded the exclamation ‘God damn’ as characteristic of the English—the Middle-French synonym ‘godon’ may be etymologically unrelated

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‘to bury one’s head in the sand’: meaning and origin

to refuse to face up to unpleasant or awkward realities—refers to the practice traditionally attributed to the ostrich of thrusting its head into the sand when being overtaken by pursuers, supposedly through an incapacity to distinguish between seeing and being seen

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