‘Kathleen Mavourneen’: meaning and origin

used attributively of something that may not have an end for years, if ever—especially used of a loan that the borrower refuses to pay back, and of hire purchase—refers to the line “It may be for years, and it may be for ever” in the song ‘Kathleen Mavourneen’ (1835)

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‘half seas over’: meanings and origin

literal meaning (1551): halfway across the sea—figurative meanings (1692): halfway towards a goal or destination, half through with a matter, halfway between one state and another—also (1699): half drunk

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‘jam butty’ (police patrol car)

UK, 1971—‘jam butty’ (also ‘jam sandwich’): a colloquial appellation for a police patrol car having a red stripe painted on a white background

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a grim phrase: ‘churchyard luck’

In Britain in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the grim proletarian phrase ‘churchyard luck’ denoted the ‘good fortune’ which the parents of a large, poor family experienced by the death of one or more of their children.

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‘until Nelson gets his eye back’: meaning and origin

UK and Ireland—with reference to the fact that Horatio Nelson was blinded in one eye—(1922) ‘until/when Nelson gets his eye back’ is used of a very long time in the future—(1933) the metaphor of Nelson getting his eye back is used of a very small chance of success

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‘every Preston Guild’: meaning and origin

UK, 1892—very rarely—refers to the fact that Preston Guilds are held only once every twenty years—Preston is the administrative centre of Lancashire, a county of north-western England, on the Irish Sea

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‘Queen Anne front and Mary Ann back’

UK and USA, 1889—used of anything that is speciously high-class in appearance, but is commonplace in reality—‘Queen Anne’ means ‘beautiful’, as opposed to ‘Mary Ann’, meaning ‘vile’; ‘low’; ‘mean’

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‘alcoholiday’: meaning and origin

UK, 1877—humorous: a holiday or period of leisure spent drinking alcoholic liquor—blend of the nouns ‘alcohol’ and ‘holiday’—has, in the course of time, been coined on separate occasions by various persons, independently from one another

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