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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to send to Coventry

probable origin: in 1642, during the English Civil War, Royalists had been captured at Birmingham and sent to Coventry, which was a Parliamentarian stronghold.

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Kindertransport

Kindertransport (from German ‘Kinder’, children): operation from 1938 to 1940 to evacuate (mostly Jewish) children from Nazi-controlled areas of Europe to the UK

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hung parliament

In ‘hung parliament’, ‘hung’ means ‘in which no political party has an overall majority’ – cf. the US expression ‘hung jury’, where ‘hung’ means ‘unable to decide’.

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origin and meanings of ‘jingo’

The current sense of ‘jingo’ originated in a 1877 patriotic song adopted by the bellicose factions within the Conservative Party during the Russo-Turkish war.

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origin of ‘cap-a-pie’

English ‘cap-a-pie’ is from ‘de cap à pied’, ‘from head to foot’, used in Occitan and in the Middle French of southern France.

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esprit d’escalier

The expression ‘esprit d’escalier’, ‘wit of the staircase’, originally referred to a witty remark coming to mind on the stairs leading away from a gathering.

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over the top

‘Over the top’, which means ‘excessive’, originated as a WWI expression meaning ‘over the parapet of a trench and into battle’.

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