‘to trail one’s coat’: meaning and origin

UK, 1837—to go out of one’s way to start a quarrel or a fight—refers to the Irish practice of dragging one’s coat behind one in the expectation that somebody will, intentionally or unintentionally, step on it and provide the pretext needed for a quarrel or a fight

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‘home is where the heart is’: meaning and origin

means that the place with which one has the strongest emotional connection is the place that one regards as home—first occurred in October 1828, in an unsigned poem published in The Winter’s Wreath, an annual published in London

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‘like a red rag to a bull’: meaning and origin

‘red rag’—a piece of red cloth used to provoke an animal—hence, figuratively, a source of provocation or annoyance, something which excites violent indignation—the notion occurs in the late 16th century

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‘men in buckram’: meaning and origin

1733—denotes imaginary or non-existent people—refers to John Falstaff’s vaunting tale in the First Part of King Henry the Fourth, by William Shakespeare, in which two men in buckram suits gradually become eleven

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‘butterfingered’ | ‘butterfingers’

‘butterfingered’, adjective, 1615: having a tendency to let things fall or slip from one’s hands—also (English, regional) unable or unwilling to handle hot items with one’s bare hands—‘butterfingers’, noun, 1835: a butterfingered person, a person with a tendency to let things fall or slip from his or her hands

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‘to ride shotgun’: origin and sense developments

USA—literally (1905): to travel as an armed guard next to the driver of a vehicle—in extended use (1948): to accompany, to escort, especially in ‘to ride shotgun on somebody’—figuratively (1949): to assist, to protect, especially in ‘to ride shotgun on somebody’

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‘to go from zero to hero’ | ‘to go from hero to zero’

USA—(1893) ‘to go from zero to hero’: to experience a sudden increase in popularity or success, especially having previously been in a position of low achievement or esteem—(1899) ‘to go from hero to zero’: to suffer a sudden decline in popularity or success

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‘my stars and garters!’: meaning and origin

1758—humorous exclamation expressing surprise, excitement, etc.—‘star’: a badge in the shape of, or ornamented with, a star, worn as part of the insignia of an order of knighthood or of chivalry—‘garter’: the badge of the highest order of English knighthood, i.e., the Order of the Garter

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‘a sprat to catch a mackerel’: meaning and origin

1747—a small outlay or risk ventured in the hope or expectation of a significant return—a metaphor from fishing, in which sprats are used as bait to catch larger fish—in early use with the words ‘salmon’ and ‘herring’ instead of ‘mackerel’

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