‘morning, noon and night’: meaning and early occurrences

UK, 1741—all day, incessantly—also, in early use, ‘morn, noon and night’—different from the juxtaposition of the nouns ‘morning’, ‘noon’ and ‘night’, which refers to an action taking place first in the morning, then at noon, and finally at night

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‘boustrophedon’: meaning and origin

1762—(especially of an ancient style of writing): having alternate lines written from left to right and from right to left—from the Greek adverb ‘βουστροφηδόν’, meaning literally ‘as an ox turns (in ploughing)’, with allusion to the course of the plough in successive furrows

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‘worm’s-eye view’: meaning and origin

USA, 1898—a view as seen from below or from a humble position—refers to a view taken as from the standpoint of a worm, i.e. from ground-level—coined after ‘bird’s-eye view’ (1782), denoting a view of a landscape from above, such as is presented to the eye of a bird

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‘like a headless chicken’: meaning and origin

USA, 1853—in a panic-stricken and unthinking manner—alludes to the phenomenon whereby a chicken can move about for a short time after decapitation, due to reflex activity of the nervous system

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‘more hide than Jessie’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1919—an excess of effrontery—puns on two meanings of ‘hide’ (the skin of an animal – effrontery) and refers to ‘Jessie’, the name of an elephant that was kept in the zoological gardens of Sydney, New South Wales

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‘chicken-and-egg’: meaning and origin

USA, 1855—used of a situation in which it is difficult to distinguish cause and effect—refers to the traditional problem of which came first, the chicken (to lay the egg) or the egg (to produce the chicken)

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‘to have both oars in the water’: meaning and origin

USA, 1977—to be mentally stable—usually depreciatively in negative contexts, as ‘not to have both oars in the water’—refers to the necessity of dipping both the oars into the water to keep a rowing boat steady and steer it in a straight line

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