Hamlet without the Prince

event taking place without the central figure—from an alleged performance of Hamlet in 1775 with the title role left out because the chief actor had fled

Read More

history of ‘slapstick’

slapstick (USA): device used to make a great noise with the pretence of dealing a heavy blow, hence comedy characterised by horseplay and physical action

Read More

origin of ‘Boxing Day’

from the verb ‘box’, ‘to give a Christmas-box’, i.e. to give a gratuity or present to tradespeople and employees—originally a box in which money was collected

Read More

origin of ‘once in a blue moon’

‘Once in a blue moon’ is a development from ‘once in a moon’, meaning ‘once a month’, hence ‘occasionally’—‘blue’ is merely a meaningless fanciful intensive.

Read More

owlhoot

Coined after ‘cock-crow’, ‘owl-hoot’ means ‘dusk’. It denotes ‘an outlaw’ in Wild West fiction, hence, generally, ‘a worthless or contemptible person’.

Read More

origin of ‘paparazzi’

The noun ‘paparazzo’ is from the name of a photographer in La Dolce Vita (1960) by Federico Fellini. The choice of this name has been variously explained.

Read More

Grauniad

‘Grauniad’, the nickname for the Guardian, was reportedly given to this British newspaper by the magazine Private Eye because of its typesetting errors.

Read More

padoodle (one-eyed car)

padoodle (USA): exclamation shouted by a person who spots a car with only one working headlight, which entitles this person to kiss or hit someone else

Read More