‘lead in one’s pencil’: meaning and origin

USA, 1927—denotes male vigour, especially sexual—with wordplay on ‘penis’—interestingly, via an alteration of the Latin diminutive ‘pēnĭcillus’, denoting literally a little tail, hence a painter’s brush or pencil, ‘pencil’ is derived from Latin ‘pēnis’, denoting literally a tail, hence the penis

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‘open and shet, sign o’ more wet’: meaning and origin

USA (New England), 1868—alternately sunny and cloudy conditions usually indicate rain—the adjective ‘shet’ is a variant of ‘shut’—it was perhaps in order to provide a rhyme for the adjective ‘wet’ that the variant ‘shet’ was chosen in the proverb

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an Australian use of ‘boots under the bed’

has been used to denote evidence of a de facto relationship affecting a woman’s eligibility for Social-Security benefits—refers to past practices of field officers inspecting homes and bedrooms

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‘lead balloon’: meaning and origin

USA, 1933—a failure, an unsuccessful venture—especially used of suggestions, jokes, etc., made in public—the image is of a balloon made of lead plummeting to the ground

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‘to judge a book by its cover’: meaning and origin

USA, 1837—to make assumptions about someone or something based on appearance or on superficial characteristics—the metaphor occurs in the preface to ‘Truth in Fiction: Or, Morality in Masquerade. A Collection of Two hundred twenty five Select Fables of Æsop, and other Authors’ (London, 1708), by Edmund Arwaker

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‘bread-artist’: meaning and origin

an artist or writer who produces what is considered to be inferior work simply to earn a living—loan translation from German ‘Brotkünstler’—first used in 1827 by Scottish historian and political philosopher Thomas Carlyle in a text about German literature

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‘wishful thinking’ | ‘wishful thinker’

USA—‘wishful thinking’, 1915: thinking in which one, consciously or unconsciously, interprets facts as one would like them to be rather than as they really are—‘wishful thinker’, 1917: a person who, consciously or unconsciously, interprets facts as he or she would like them to be rather than as they really are

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‘bread and roses’: meaning and origin

USA, 1911—used to express the belief that everyone should have access not only to basic sustenance, but also to the finer things in life, such as education, art, literature, etc.—adapted from ‘Bread for all, and Roses too’ (1911), a slogan in the fight for women’s rights

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