origin of ‘fat cat’ (wealthy and powerful person)

Of American-English origin, the slang term fat cat denotes a wealthy, influential person, especially one who is a heavy contributor to a political party or campaign. The earliest occurrence that I have found is from an article published in The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) of 1 November 1925.

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the queen’s cushion, a Scottish makeshift seat

‘queen’s’, or ‘king’s’, ‘cushion’: a seat made by two people who cross arms and hold each other’s hands to form a support for another person—Scotland and northern England, 19th century

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folk-etymological origin of ‘squirrel’

Greek ‘skíouros’, ultimate origin of ‘squirrel’: folk-etymologically interpreted as meaning ‘shadow-tailed’ because when the animal sits erect, it raises its tail up against its back and over its head as if to shade itself

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a 19th-century document on English phrases

remarks on English phrases (‘to rain cats and dogs’, ‘tit for tat’, ‘the devil to pay’, etc.) – from Notes and Queries (London), 9th November 1861

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cat-o’-nine-tails

  cat-o’-nine-tails (1866-79) – photograph: National Maritime Museum     The noun cat-o’-nine-tails denotes a rope whip with nine knotted cords, formerly used, especially at sea, to flog offenders. This instrument of punishment was authorised in the British navy and army until 1881. The word is first recorded in Love for love (London, 1695), a comedy […]

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no room to swing a cat

  Q. Once hairy scenter did transgress,      Whose dame, both powerful and fierce,      Tho’ hairy scenter took delight      To do the thing both fair and right,      Upon a Sabbath day. A. An old Woman whipping her Cat for Catching Mice on a Sunday. from The True Trial […]

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to have a frog in one’s throat

  FROG IN YOUR THROAT. 7½d. An instantaneous remedy for “Laryngeal” and “Bronchial Inflammation,” “Tickling,” “Clergymens’ [sic] Sore Throat,” “Smokers’ Sore Throat,” Soreness resulting from dryness of the throat and air passages, or from “clearing the throat.” They afford greater relief than anything hitherto known. Especially useful to Singers, Speakers, Readers, Actors, Teachers, and all […]

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to look like something the cat has brought in

  Of American-English origin, the phrase to look, or to feel, like something the cat has brought in means to look, or to feel, exhausted or bedraggled. The earliest instances of the form, if not of the phrase, that I have found are in, and as the title of, a story published in The Perrysburg Journal (Perrysburg, Ohio) of 2nd February 1877 […]

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cheese – fromage

    “Comment voulez-vous gouverner un pays qui a deux-cent quarante-six variétés de fromage ?” (“How can you govern a country which has two hundred and forty-six varieties of cheese?”) attributed to Charles de Gaulle (1890-1970), French general and statesman, in Les mots du général de Gaulle (1962), by Ernest Mignon photograph: fémivin.com     […]

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Kilkenny cats

    Kilkenny cats denotes two cats fabled to have fought until only their tails remained, hence combatants who fight until they annihilate each other, and to fight like Kilkenny cats means to engage in a mutually destructive struggle. (The name Kilkenny denotes both a county in south-eastern Ireland and its chief town.) The earliest […]

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