origin of ‘bobby’ and ‘peeler’ (‘police officer’)

UK, 1844—‘bobby’: a policeman—from ‘Bobby’, pet form of ‘Robert’, in allusion to Robert Peel, who, as Home Secretary, established the Metropolitan Police in 1829—cf. ‘peeler’ (1816), originally a member of the Peace Preservation Force in Ireland established in 1814 by Robert Peel

Read More

‘handbag’: how Thatcher enriched the English language

‘handbag’: to bully or coerce by subjecting to a forthright verbal assault or criticism—originally used with reference to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Economist (7 August 1982)—from literal meaning ‘to batter or assault with a handbag’

Read More

the American-English phrase ‘hot under the collar’

Of American-English origin, the colloquial phrase ‘hot under (or ‘in’) the collar’ means ‘extremely exasperated or angry’. The earliest instance that I have found is from The Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) of 8th July 1869.

Read More

meaning of ‘to go (all) round the houses’

First attested in 1943, the British-English colloquial phrase ‘to go (all) round the houses’ means ‘to get to the point in a lengthy or roundabout way’, from its literal sense, ‘to take an unnecessarily circuitous route to one’s destination’.

Read More

‘take the Fifth’: decline to reveal one’s own secrets

‘to take the Fifth’: to decline to reveal one’s own secrets—from ‘to take the Fifth Amendment’: to appeal to Article V of the original amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which states that “No person […] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

Read More

origin of ‘pub crawl’: political propaganda

British English: a drinking tour of a number of pubs or bars—but first appeared in 1909 with specific reference to an organised form of propaganda consisting in sending a person from pub to pub in order to promote the Conservative cause

Read More

‘to plough one’s own furrow’ – ‘creuser son sillon’

‘to plough a lonely furrow’, or ‘one’s own furrow’ (UK, 1901): to carry on without help, support or companionship—French ‘creuser son sillon’ (‘to dig one’s own furrow’, first used by Voltaire): to carry out with courage and perseverance the task undertaken

Read More