‘roaring forties’: literal and figurative meanings

(1836) stormy ocean tracts between latitudes 40° and 50° south—(1867) the fifth decade of life—(1888) the 1840s—(1913) the stretch of Broadway through Times Square, in New York City—(nautical slang) naval commanders aged between 40 and 50 who ‘roar’ commands

Read More

‘jerry-builder’: meaning and origin

Liverpool (Lancashire, north-western England), 1833—a speculating builder who constructs cheap houses, flats, etc., with materials of poor quality, for a quick profit—the origin of the element ‘jerry’ is unknown

Read More

notes on the origin of ‘mad money’

USA, 1922—flappers’ slang: the sum of money that a flapper carried as a precaution so as not to be left financially helpless in case she and her boyfriend got ‘mad’ at each other while on a date

Read More

‘to sleep in Mother Greenfield’s (lodgings)’

‘to sleep in Mother Greenfield’s’ (tramp slang): to sleep out in the open fields—‘to worship under Dr. Greenfield’: to go for a walk in the countryside rather than to attend a religious service

Read More

‘hikikomori’: meanings and origin

Japan 1990s—the extreme avoidance of social contact, especially by adolescent males; a person, typically an adolescent male, who avoids social contact—Japanese ‘hikikomori’ is the nominalised stem of the verb ‘hikikomoru’, meaning ‘to withdraw into seclusion’

Read More

‘ducks on the pond’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1982—a coded signal from a man to other men, indicating that a woman is approaching, so that they all moderate their language—originally used in shearing sheds, but now used in other places, especially in pubs

Read More