betwixt and between

‘betwixt and between’, late 18th century—not fully or properly either of two things, in an intermediate or middling position

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carrot and stick

early 20th century—refers to the method of tempting a donkey to move forward by dangling a carrot before it, and beating it with a stick if it refuses

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origin of ‘to walk one’s chalks’

to go off—19th cent.—from a procedure consisting in making a person walk on a straight line drawn with chalk in order to establish whether they are inebriated

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origin of ‘by a long chalk’

‘by a long chalk’: in a great degree, by far — 19th century, from the practice of using chalk to mark up the points scored in a game

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origin of ‘out of the blue’

from ‘a bolt out of the blue’, denoting a sudden and unexpected event, with reference to the unlikelihood of a thunderbolt coming from a clear blue sky

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to set the Thames on fire

from the image of an impossible task, ‘to set the Thames on fire’: to work wonders — typically used negatively in the ironic sense never to distinguish oneself

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meanings and origin of ‘Maundy’

originally the washing of poor persons’ feet – from ‘mandatum novum’, ‘a new commandment’, in the discourse following Jesus’ washing of the apostles’ feet

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meaning and origin of ‘Box and Cox’

from the name of an 1847 farce in which a landlady lets out, unbeknown to them, the same room to two tenants, Box and Cox, the one by day, the other by night

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origin of ‘madeleine’

‘madeleine’: originally ‘gâteau à la Madeleine’ (late 18th cent.), perhaps named after French cook Madeleine Paumier – refers also to Swann’s Way, by Proust

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