notes on ‘Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office’

UK, 1997—the title given to the official resident cat of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom at 10 Downing Street, London—‘mouser’, first recorded circa 1440, denotes an animal that catches mice

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‘London to a brick’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1909—(horseracing) a bet is sure to pay off; (in extended use) something is a very strong probability—from the notion that the punter is so confident of winning the bet that he is prepared to put the whole city of London on a horse to win a brick, i.e., a ten-pound note

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‘another brick in the wall’: meanings and origin

a small component of a much larger structure, system or process; an insignificant individual within a large population or community—commonly associated with ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, the title of a three-part composition by the British band Pink Floyd in their 1979 rock opera ‘The Wall’, but has been used since 1867

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‘person from Porlock’: meaning and origin

UK, 1888—a person who interrupts at an inconvenient moment—alludes to a visitor from Porlock, in Somerset, England, who, according to Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), interrupted him during the composition of ‘Kubla Kahn’

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origin of ‘how are you off for soap?’

UK, 1816—a meaningless bantering phrase—originated in a print published in June, satirising the fact that a bill on additional taxation on soap had been brought in unobtrusively in May by the Chancellor of the Exchequer

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‘Piccadilly window’: meaning and origin

UK, 1897—‘Piccadilly window’: a monocle—hence ‘Piccadilly-windowed’: monocled—alludes to ‘Piccadilly’, the name of a street and of a circus (i.e., a rounded open space) in London

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‘Alexandra limp’: meaning and origin

UK, 1869—a limping gait affected by some members of fashionable society in imitation of Alexandra of Denmark, who developed a limp after contracting rheumatic fever in 1867—‘Alexandra’ was used to form compounds designating things popularised by, or associated with, Alexandra of Denmark, consort of Edward VII

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‘in mothballs’ | ‘out of mothballs’

USA—‘in mothballs’ (1892): in a state or period of inactivity, disuse, reserve, storage or postponement—‘out of mothballs’ (1905): back into activity, into use

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‘brolly hop’: meaning and origin

UK, 1933—a jump made with a parachute—hence also the verbal noun ‘brolly-hopping’ and the verb ‘brolly-hop’—‘brolly’ (university slang, late 19th century): a clipped and altered form of ‘umbrella’

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‘fatberg ’ | ‘concreteberg’

UK—2008 ‘fatberg’, after ‘iceberg’: a large mass of fat and waste material in a sewerage system—originally a large lump of congealed cooking fat washed up on a beach—2019 ‘concreteberg’, after ‘fatberg’: a large mass of concrete in a sewerage system, consisting of cement that has been poured down a drain

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