‘Mexican standoff’: meaning and origin

a situation in which neither side in an argument or contest can win—in early use: a situation in which a person loses their money, but saves their life—origin: an 1876 story in which a Mexican bandit robs a traveller from the USA, but lets him escape with his life

Read More

‘neatnik’: meaning and origin

USA, 1959—a very tidy, well-organised person—a blend of the adjective ‘neat’ and of the noun ‘beatnik’—originally occurred chiefly in contrast to ‘beatnik’

Read More

‘lightbulb moment’: meaning and origin

USA, 1974—a moment of sudden realisation, enlightenment or inspiration—alludes to the representation of an illuminated lightbulb above a character’s head in a cartoon or comic strip, indicating that this character has had an idea

Read More

‘to drink the Kool-Aid’: meanings and origin

USA, 1978—to commit suicide; to demonstrate unquestioning obedience or loyalty—alludes to a mass suicide, in 1978, by members of the Peoples’ Temple in Jonestown, Guyana, who drank a cyanide-laced drink thought to be similar to Kool-Aid

Read More

‘grease monkey’: meaning and origin

USA, 1918—a mechanic—since the 17th century, ‘monkey’ has been used (frequently with modifying word indicating the occupation concerned) to denote a person engaged in a trade or profession

Read More