‘Vaseline Valley’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1982—a stretch of Oxford Street, in Sydney, which is the city’s main gay district—refers to the use of Vaseline to ease anal intercourse, and based on the alliteration in /v/

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‘spit and sawdust’: meaning and origin

UK, 1928—of a public-house: very basic and lacking in comforts—refers to the former practice of covering the floor of a public-house with sawdust into which customers spat

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‘scarlet letter’: meanings and origin

a representation of the letter A in scarlet cloth which Hester Prynne is condemned to wear in The Scarlet Letter (1850), by Nathaniel Hawthorne—soon came to be used figuratively in the sense of a stigma, a mark of infamy

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‘Nacht und Nebel’: meanings and origin

the name of a decree issued in Nazi Germany in December 1941, under which individuals suspected of resistance or other underground activities were arrested and deported suddenly and without trace, frequently during the night—by extension: any situation, event, etc., characterised by mystery, obscurity or secrecy

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