betwixt and between

‘betwixt and between’, late 18th century—not fully or properly either of two things, in an intermediate or middling position

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origin of ‘castles in Spain’

In French medieval chansons de geste ‘castles in Spain’ denoted fiefs that had to be conquered from the Saracens by the knights to whom they had been granted.

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carrot and stick

early 20th century—refers to the method of tempting a donkey to move forward by dangling a carrot before it, and beating it with a stick if it refuses

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origin of ‘out of the blue’

from ‘a bolt out of the blue’, denoting a sudden and unexpected event, with reference to the unlikelihood of a thunderbolt coming from a clear blue sky

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meaning and origin of ‘red herring’

Red herring, used in laying trails for hounds to follow, was misunderstood as a deliberate attempt to distract them, hence the figurative use of ‘red herring’.

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origin of ‘gas and gaiters’

coined by Charles Dickens in Nicholas Nickleby (1839) in a comic passage in which an insane speaker makes a series of nonsensical statements

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owlhoot

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

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to have bats in one’s belfry

Of American-English origin, ‘to have bats in one’s belfry’ is from the image of bats flying around when disturbed, like confused thoughts in a disordered mind.

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slave – Slav – robot – ciao

The word ‘slave’ is from Medieval Latin ‘Sclavus’, ‘Slav’, because the Slavic peoples were frequently reduced to a servile condition by the Germanic conquest.

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by hook or by crook

The phrase perhaps originated in laws or customs regulating the gathering of firewood by tenants; it was perhaps a legal formula in which ‘crook’ merely reinforced ‘hook’.

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