‘royal we’: meaning and origin

UK, 1821—‘we’ used in place of ‘I’ by a monarch or other person in power, also (frequently humorously) by any individual—originated as a loan translation from French ‘nous royal’, as used of Napoléon Bonaparte by Madame de Staël in her memoirs published in 1821

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‘(as) game as Ned Kelly’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1907—very spirited or brave—refers to the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly (1855-1880), leader of a band of horse and cattle thieves and bank raiders operating in Victoria, who was eventually hanged in Melbourne

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‘a grape on the business’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1939—someone whose presence spoils things for others; an odd person out—of unknown origin—perhaps a variant of ‘gooseberry’, as in ‘to play gooseberry’—perhaps an alteration of ‘gripe’—perhaps related in some respect to ‘sour grapes’

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‘to jump one’s horse over the bar’: meaning and origin

The obsolete Australian-English phrase to jump one’s horse over the bar, and its variants, meant to sell a horse for liquor. The following definition is from an unpublished manuscript entitled Materials for a dictionary of Australian Slang, collected from 1900 to 1910, by Alfred George Stephens and S. J. O’Brien—as quoted by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020) in A […]

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‘to out-Herod Herod’ | ‘to out-Zola Zola’

the phrases built on the pattern ‘to out-X X’, in which ‘X’ is a person’s name, mean to be superior to X in his or her characteristics—the prefix ‘out-’ has been used to form verbs conveying the sense of surpassing, exceeding or beating in the action described by the simple verb

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‘Lushington’: meaning and origin

UK, 1819—has been used in various jocular phrases referring to alcohol consumption—punningly alludes to ‘lush’, which, as a noun, denotes alcoholic drink, and, as a verb, means to consume alcohol—‘the City of Lushington’: a convivial society, consisting chiefly of actors, which met at the Harp Tavern, London

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