‘swellegant’: meaning and origin

USA, 1901—wonderfully stylish, elegant or fashionable—a blend of ‘swell’ and ‘elegant’—popularised by its use in the song Well, Did You Evah!, interpreted by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra in the 1956 film High Society

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‘Tom Pepper’: meaning and early occurrences

USA, 1812—UK, 1818—the name of a character proverbially said to have been so great a liar that he was expelled from Hell—hence, frequently in ‘a bigger liar than Tom Pepper’, and variants: an outrageous liar

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‘Kathleen Mavourneen’: meaning and origin

used attributively of something that may not have an end for years, if ever—especially used of a loan that the borrower refuses to pay back, and of hire purchase—refers to the line “It may be for years, and it may be for ever” in the song ‘Kathleen Mavourneen’ (1835)

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‘different ships, different long splices’: meaning and origin

1922—nautical—figuratively, means that different countries (or cities, spheres of activity, etc.) have different customs or practices—‘long splice’: a splice in which the ends of two ropes are interwoven in such a way that the point of joining and the ropes are of equal thickness

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‘churchyard cough’: meaning and origin

UK, 1677—a bad cough indicative of impending death—with allusion to the churchyard as the site of burial, ‘churchyard’ has been used attributively of something indicative of, or associated with, (impending) death

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‘bullamacow’: meanings and origin

islands of the South Pacific, 1881—cattle, beef, and, by extension, meat of any kind and tinned meat—a combination of the nouns ‘bull’ and ‘cow’

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‘Queen Anne front and Mary Ann back’

UK and USA, 1889—used of anything that is speciously high-class in appearance, but is commonplace in reality—‘Queen Anne’ means ‘beautiful’, as opposed to ‘Mary Ann’, meaning ‘vile’; ‘low’; ‘mean’

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