‘open and shet, sign o’ more wet’: meaning and origin

USA (New England), 1868—alternately sunny and cloudy conditions usually indicate rain—the adjective ‘shet’ is a variant of ‘shut’—it was perhaps in order to provide a rhyme for the adjective ‘wet’ that the variant ‘shet’ was chosen in the proverb

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‘Spy Wednesday’: meaning and origin

Ireland, 1809—the Wednesday before Easter—refers to the day on which Judas Iscariot formed the intent to betray Jesus—‘spy’ denotes ‘one who spies upon, or watches, a person or persons secretly’, because, from Wednesday onwards, Judas Iscariot secretly sought an opportunity to deliver Jesus to the Jewish authorities

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‘a penny soul never came to twopence’

UK, 1844—extreme meanness never made anyone better off—compare Book of Proverbs, 11:24: “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.”

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‘Briticism’: meaning and origin

USA, 1868—coined by U.S. critic Richard Grant White (1822-1885) to denote a word or expression whose original acceptation (preserved in U.S. English) was changed to one that he regarded as debased

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