‘false dawn’: meanings and origin

1809—a transient light preceding the true dawn by about an hour, a phenomenon common in Eastern countries—translates Arabic ‘ṣubḥ kāḏib’—figuratively: a hopeful sign that can prove either illusory or authentic

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‘get on your bike’ (exhortation to take action)

UK—since 1981, has been associated with a speech by the Employment Secretary, Norman Tebbit, at the Conservative Party conference, in which he exhorted the unemployed to go and find work, like his father, who had “got on his bike and looked for work”

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‘999’ (British emergency telephone number)

‘999’ denotes the telephone number used to contact the emergency services in the United Kingdom. This telephone number was introduced in 1937 by Walter Womersley, who was then the Assistant Postmaster-General.

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the various meanings of ‘razor gang’

a violent street gang armed with razors—in extended use, a group or body responsible for making cutbacks—in particular: 1) (British English, railway slang): a team of investigators seeking ways of improving economy and productivity; 2) (Australian English) a parliamentary committee charged with investigating and reducing government spending

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‘prosecco socialist’: meaning and origin

UK, 2001—used as a self-designation by persons with left-wing political views who think of themselves as being better in touch with reality than champagne socialists are—coined after, and in contrast to, ‘champagne socialist’

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‘an egg yesterday and a feather-duster tomorrow’

USA 1907—used of the inanity of life and of the transitoriness of success—originated in the captions to a cartoon known as ‘The Dejected Rooster’, by Mark Fenderson, published by the weekly magazine Life (New York City) in 1907

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