‘can a moose crochet?’: meaning and origin

USA, 1967—emphatic negative phrase meaning ‘well, hardly’ or ‘no, that’s impossible’—used as the title of a jazz piece composed by Johnny Hodges—said to be a folk phrase that he had heard “out West”

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‘Malley’s cow’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1951—used of someone who has departed and left no indication of their present whereabouts—purportedly from the story of one Malley, who was told by his boss to hold a cow; on the boss’s return, the cow had disappeared, and Malley said “She’s a goner!”

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‘(as) fit as a mallee bull’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1960—very fit and well, in robust health—the image is of a bull strengthened by his living in one of the semi-desert areas of Australia in which the principal vegetation is mallee, i.e., low-growing bushy eucalyptus

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‘a fox in a forest fire’: meanings and origin

USA, 1931—originated in sporting parlance—emphasises the meaning of the adjective it immediately follows—that adjective usually is ‘hot’ (used literally or figuratively) or describes agitation, erraticism

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‘in clover’: meaning and origin of this phrase

UK, 1710—in ease and luxury—refers to the use of clover as fodder, as explained by Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755): “To live in Clover, is to live luxuriously; clover being extremely delicious and fattening to cattle.”

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