‘earworm’: meanings and origin

USA, 1982—a catchy song or melody that keeps repeating in one’s mind, especially to the point of irritation—loan translation from German ‘Ohrwurm’—original meaning (1598): an earwig

Read More

‘swellegant’: meaning and origin

USA, 1901—wonderfully stylish, elegant or fashionable—a blend of ‘swell’ and ‘elegant’—popularised by its use in the song Well, Did You Evah!, interpreted by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 film High Society

Read More

‘grotty’: meaning and origin

UK—a general term of disapproval, meaning ‘unpleasant’, ‘dirty’, ‘nasty’, ‘ugly’, etc.—shortened form of ‘grotesque’—first recorded in (and popularised by) A Hard Day’s Night (1964), a musical comedy film starring the Beatles

Read More

‘another brick in the wall’: meanings and origin

a small component of a much larger structure, system or process; an insignificant individual within a large population or community—commonly associated with ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, the title of a three-part composition by the British band Pink Floyd in their 1979 rock opera ‘The Wall’, but has been used since 1867

Read More

notes on the phrase ‘sing ’em muck’

1928 in Clara Butt: Her Life-Story, by H. W. Ponder—“Sing ’em muck! It’s all they can understand!”: advice given by Australian soprano Nellie Melba to English contralto Clara Butt, who was about to undertake a tour of Australia

Read More

‘can a moose crochet?’: meaning and origin

USA, 1967—emphatic negative phrase meaning ‘well, hardly’ or ‘no, that’s impossible’—used as the title of a jazz piece composed by Johnny Hodges—said to be a folk phrase that he had heard “out West”

Read More

‘singing milkshake’: meaning and origin

1979—nickname given, in particular, to singer Olivia Newton-John—alludes to the type of popular music that (like a milkshake) is discarded as soon as it has been consumed

Read More