29th Mar 2023. Reading time 13 minutes.
to undertake a dangerous or hazardous operation or activity—UK, 1867, as ‘to tickle the dragon’s nose’—‘to tickle the dragon’s tail’ was used of a nuclear experiment at Los Alamos during WWII
24th Mar 2023. Reading time 13 minutes.
the strategy consisting in deliberately making a shocking announcement in order to divert attention from a difficulty in which one is embroiled—from the image of throwing a dead cat on the table—first defined in 2013 by Boris Johnson
19th Mar 2023. Reading time 11 minutes.
(derogatory) a person who is prone to exaggeratedly dramatic behaviour—UK, 1978
18th Mar 2023. Reading time 10 minutes.
literally (1618): a blanket dampened with water so as to extinguish a fire—figuratively (1775): a person or thing that has a subduing or inhibiting effect
17th Mar 2023. Reading time 10 minutes.
to draw an obvious inference from available evidence—early 19th century—but ‘two and two make four’, used as as a paradigm of the obvious conclusion, is first recorded in the late 17th century
14th Mar 2023. Reading time 7 minutes.
real events and situations are often more remarkable or incredible than those made up in fiction—first occurred as ‘truth is always strange, stranger than fiction’ in Don Juan (1823), by George Gordon Byron
13th Mar 2023. Reading time 9 minutes.
to use a lot of swearwords—first used in 1713 by Joseph Addison—alludes to the fact that troopers (i.e., soldiers of low rank in the cavalry) had a reputation for coarse language and behaviour
8th Mar 2023. Reading time 11 minutes.
1750—the non-academic inhabitants (‘town’) of a university city and the resident members of the university (‘gown’, denoting the distinctive costume of a member of a university)
4th Mar 2023. Reading time 14 minutes.
a person or thing that is insignificant or contemptible—1910—originally (1900): a type of small high-velocity shell, with reference to the high-pitched sound of its discharge and flight
2nd Mar 2023. Reading time 20 minutes.
in French contexts: a young person, especially a young man, belonging to a youth subculture of the 1950s and 1960s—UK, 1959—from the noun ‘blouson’ (a short jacket) and the adjective ‘noir’ (black)