origin of ‘to throw one’s hat in(to) the ring’

UK, 1820—to show willingness to enter into a contest or take up a challenge, especially in business or politics—originally (1804) used in boxing with reference to the custom of throwing a hat into the ring to signal willingness to enter a contest

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“the very pineapple of politeness” and other malapropisms

from the name of Mrs Malaprop, a character who confuses long words in The Rivals (1775), a comedy by the Irish playwright Richard Brinsley Sheridan—character named after ‘malapropos’, from the French locution ‘mal à propos’, literally ‘ill to purpose’

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the theatrical origin of ‘claptrap’

first half of the 18th century—‘clap trap’: a use of language designed to capture (i.e. trap) a theatrical audience’s applause (i.e. clapping)

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origin of ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’

    The proverb you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear means you can’t create a fine product from inferior materials. It originated in Scotland, according to its first recorded instance, in A New Dictionary of the Terms Ancient and Modern of the Canting Crew (1699), by “B. E. Gent.”: Luggs, […]

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history of the phrase ‘tell that to the marines’

  “HUNS KILL WOMEN AND CHILDREN!” “TELL THAT TO THE MARINES!” First-World-War US recruiting poster by James Montgomery Flagg image: Disappearing Idioms This poster, which attracted a great deal of attention, portrays an angry-looking young man in the act of pulling off his coat as though he were anxious to get into a fight. The […]

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origin of ‘dandelion’ and of its French equivalent ‘pissenlit’

  the 1905 edition of Le Petit Larousse illustré, a French-language encyclopaedic dictionary published by the Éditions Larousse In 1890, Eugène Grasset (1845-1917) designed the image of la Semeuse (the Sower) blowing dandelion seeds, which accompanies the motto of the Éditions Larousse, Je sème à tout vent (I sow to the four winds).   The word […]

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