‘rosinback’: meaning and origin

USA, 1896, circus slang—a horse used by a bareback rider or acrobat—rosin was rubbed on the horse’s back to prevent the rider or acrobat from slipping

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‘caught in the headlights’: meanings and origin

used of a person who is frozen with fright or surprise, or is trying to flee, as a result of suddenly becoming the focus of attention—alludes to the habit of deer and rabbits of stopping still when dazzled by the headlights of a motor vehicle, or of running away within the headlight beam

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‘to bury one’s head in the sand’: meaning and origin

to refuse to face up to unpleasant or awkward realities—refers to the practice traditionally attributed to the ostrich of thrusting its head into the sand when being overtaken by pursuers, supposedly through an incapacity to distinguish between seeing and being seen

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‘on the pig’s back’: meaning and origin

Irish English, 1829—‘in a fortunate or prosperous state’—a loan translation from Irish ‘ar mhuin na muice’, meaning, literally, ‘on the pig’s back’, and, figuratively, ‘in a fortunate or prosperous state’

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‘gorilla dust’: meaning and origin

USA, 1986—something intended to divert attention from something more important—refers to the fact that when two male gorillas confront each other, they throw dust in the air to distract one another—popularised, if not coined, by Henry Ross Perot

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