origin of ‘to cut a caper’

‘caper’: probably abbreviation of ‘cabriole’, from Italian ‘capriola’, literally ‘female roe deer’, from Latin ‘capreola’, ‘wild goat’, from ‘capra’, she-goat

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betwixt and between

‘betwixt and between’, late 18th century—not fully or properly either of two things, in an intermediate or middling position

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‘adultescent’ and its synonyms

blend of ‘adult’ and ‘adolescent’: adult who has retained the interests, behaviour or lifestyle of adolescence — origin USA, first attested in 1945

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to set the Thames on fire

from the image of an impossible task, ‘to set the Thames on fire’: to work wonders — typically used negatively in the ironic sense never to distinguish oneself

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origin of ‘to go haywire’

From the practice of using hay-baling wire for makeshift repairs, ‘haywire’ came to mean crudely made, improvised, hence disorganised, erratic, crazy.

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Hamlet without the Prince

event taking place without the central figure—from an alleged performance of Hamlet in 1775 with the title role left out because the chief actor had fled

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origin of ‘keep your hair on’

‘keep your hair on’ (British, late 19th century): perhaps from the image of pulling one’s hair out, or one’s wig off, in exasperation, anger or frustration

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origin of ‘in a nutshell’

The phrase ‘in a nutshell’ originated in a story told by Pliny of a copy of Homer’s ‘Iliad’ supposedly small enough to be enclosed in the shell of a nut.

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origin of ‘Boxing Day’

from the verb ‘box’, ‘to give a Christmas-box’, i.e. to give a gratuity or present to tradespeople and employees—originally a box in which money was collected

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