‘a car crash in slow motion’: meaning and origin

a chaotic or disastrous situation that holds a ghoulish fascination for observers—UK, 1980, as ‘like viewing a car crash in slow motion’—USA, 1991, used without ‘like’ by George Colony, president of Forrester Research

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‘panier de crabes’: meaning and origin

1942—an arena of fierce or ruthless rivalry—borrowed from French: literally ‘basket of crabs’—the image is of crabs fighting, if not devouring one another, when kept in a basket

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‘to have a tiger by the tail’: meaning and origin

UK, 1826—to find oneself in a situation that has turned out to be difficult to control but cannot be got out of—the image is that someone holding a tiger by the tail can neither keep hold of it nor let go of it with safety

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‘the patter of tiny feet’: meanings and origin

1842—The noun ‘patter’ denotes the sound of light footfall, and the phrase ‘the patter of tiny feet’, and its variants, denote the presence of one or several young children, or the imminent birth of a child.

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