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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origin of ‘first catch your hare’

‘First catch your hare’ (early 19th cent.): originated in popular humour ascribing this phrase to ‘The Art of Cookery’ (1st published 1747), by Hannah Glasse

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Hamlet without the Prince

event taking place without the central figure—from an alleged performance of Hamlet in 1775 with the title role left out because the chief actor had fled

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origin of ‘keep your hair on’

‘keep your hair on’ (British, late 19th century): perhaps from the image of pulling one’s hair out, or one’s wig off, in exasperation, anger or frustration

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origin of ‘Boxing Day’

from the verb ‘box’, ‘to give a Christmas-box’, i.e. to give a gratuity or present to tradespeople and employees—originally a box in which money was collected

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