meaning and origin of ‘to be unable to run a whelk stall’

‘to be unable to run a whelk stall’ and variants: to be incapable of managing the simplest task or enterprise—coined by John Elliot Burns (1858-1943), English trade unionist and politician, in the 1894 New Year’s address to his constituents of Battersea

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How ‘lion’ came to denote a celebrity.

‘lion’: a person of note or celebrity who is much sought after—from ‘lions’: things of note, celebrity, or curiosity in a town, etc.—from the practice of taking visitors to see the lions which used to be kept in the Tower of London

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‘to go to hell – or to heaven – in a handbasket’

‘hell in a handbasket’ (1841), ‘heaven in a handbasket’ (1834) in Irish contexts—‘handbasket’ chosen for alliteration with ‘hell’—‘to go to hell in a handbasket’ meant ‘to go to hell’—‘to go to heaven in a handbasket’ meant ‘to go to heaven’ or ‘to go to hell’

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meaning and origin of ‘red in tooth and claw’

UK, 1857—characterised by savage violence or merciless competition—from Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘In Memoriam’ (1850), in which ‘red in tooth and claw’ refers to Nature’s brutality

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