‘a grape on the business’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1939—someone whose presence spoils things for others; an odd person out—of unknown origin—perhaps a variant of ‘gooseberry’, as in ‘to play gooseberry’—perhaps an alteration of ‘gripe’—perhaps related in some respect to ‘sour grapes’

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‘to jump one’s horse over the bar’: meaning and origin

The obsolete Australian-English phrase to jump one’s horse over the bar, and its variants, meant to sell a horse for liquor. The following definition is from an unpublished manuscript entitled Materials for a dictionary of Australian Slang, collected from 1900 to 1910, by Alfred George Stephens and S. J. O’Brien—as quoted by Gerald Alfred Wilkes (1927-2020) in A […]

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‘government stroke’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1837—the deliberately slow pace of work characteristic of public-sector workers—originally used of convict labourers—in Australia as a penal colony, unease about the word ‘convict’ led to the creation of euphemistic terms such as ‘government man’ and ‘public servant’

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‘Dickless Tracy’: meanings and origin

USA, 1963—a female police officer or a female traffic warden—puns on ‘dick’, slang for a man’s penis, and the name of Dick Tracy, a comic-strip detective created in 1931 by the U.S. cartoonist Chester Gould

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‘cakeage’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1985—Coined after ‘corkage’, the noun ‘cakeage’ denotes, in a restaurant, the cutting and serving of a cake that has been brought in by a customer from off the premises, hence also a charge levied for this service.

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‘no good to Gundy’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1902—of no use or advantage whatsoever, no good at all—origin unknown—alliterative effect and phonetical factors proper to Australia may have contributed to the currency of the phrase

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‘Lushington’: meaning and origin

UK, 1819—has been used in various jocular phrases referring to alcohol consumption—punningly alludes to ‘lush’, which, as a noun, denotes alcoholic drink, and, as a verb, means to consume alcohol—‘the City of Lushington’: a convivial society, consisting chiefly of actors, which met at the Harp Tavern, London

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‘bone idle’: meaning and origin

Scotland, 1825 (as ‘bane idle’)—England, 1839—utterly lazy or indolent—‘bone’ seems to be used as an intensifier with adverbial force in the sense ‘through to the bone’, i.e., ‘deeply and fundamentally’

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‘lead in one’s pencil’: meaning and origin

USA, 1927—denotes male vigour, especially sexual—with wordplay on ‘penis’—interestingly, via an alteration of the Latin diminutive ‘pēnĭcillus’, denoting literally a little tail, hence a painter’s brush or pencil, ‘pencil’ is derived from Latin ‘pēnis’, denoting literally a tail, hence the penis

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