‘to out-Herod Herod’ | ‘to out-Zola Zola’

the phrases built on the pattern ‘to out-X X’, in which ‘X’ is a person’s name, mean to be superior to X in his or her characteristics—the prefix ‘out-’ has been used to form verbs conveying the sense of surpassing, exceeding or beating in the action described by the simple verb

Read More

‘gory details’: meaning and origin

informal and often humorous: denotes the explicit or most intimate details of something—originally (USA, 1859) referred to accounts or representations of acts of violence and bloodshed

Read More

‘Tory-lite’: meanings and origin

UK, 1995—a derogatory designation of New Labour, i.e., a right-wing/social democratic trend in Labour thinking and policy, advocated by Tony Blair—‘Tory’: the British Conservative Party; ‘lite’ (phonetic respelling of the adjective ‘light’): a moderated version of something

Read More

‘Lushington’: meaning and origin

UK, 1819—has been used in various jocular phrases referring to alcohol consumption—punningly alludes to ‘lush’, which, as a noun, denotes alcoholic drink, and, as a verb, means to consume alcohol—‘the City of Lushington’: a convivial society, consisting chiefly of actors, which met at the Harp Tavern, London

Read More

notes on ‘queuemanship’

1950—the exercise of ploys and tactics in order to minimise time spent waiting in a queue—composed of the noun ‘queue’ and the suffix ‘-manship’—here, ‘-manship’ does not refer to the skills worthy of a role, as in ‘horsemanship’ and ‘statesmanship’, but to the ploys used to gain the upper hand, as in ‘gamesmanship’

Read More

‘squander-bug’: meanings and origin (British usage)

1943—a devilish insect symbolising reckless extravagance and waste—introduced by the National Savings Committee in a government publicity campaign promoting economy—hence: one who is profligate with money or resources

Read More

‘william-nilliam’: meaning and origin

1907—whether one likes it or not; haphazardly—a humorous variant of ‘willy-nilly’, after the personal name ‘William’ (‘William’ being familiarly shortened to ‘Willy’)

Read More

‘to pass the parcel’: meaning and origin

UK—(used of a group of people) to keep passing the initiative or responsibility from one person to another, so that no action is taken—refers to a party game in which a gift wrapped in several layers of paper is passed around a circle of players to the accompaniment of music, the losers in successive rounds being those holding the parcel when the accompanying music stops

Read More

‘parting shot’ | ‘Parthian shot’

‘parting shot’ (1817); ‘Parthian shot’ (1822): a sharp, telling remark, act, gesture, etc., made in departing—‘parting shot’: literally the final shot fired at the moment of departure—‘Parthian shot’: refers to the Parthian horsemen’s habit of shooting arrows backwards while in real or pretended retreat

Read More