‘Eve-teasing’: meaning and origin

India, 1958—euphemistic appellation for verbal or physical sexual harassment of a woman by a man in a public place—refers to Eve, the first woman in the biblical account of the creation of the world, who is seen as a temptress

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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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‘Johnny Crapaud’: meanings and origin

UK, 1805—personifies France or the French people, or designates a typical Frenchman—composed of ‘Johnny’, a pet form of ‘John’ used, with modifying word, to designate a person of the type, group, etc., specified, and of French ‘crapaud’ (a toad)—coined by British sailors during the Napoleonic Wars

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‘Queen Anne front and Mary Ann back’

UK and USA, 1889—used of anything that is speciously high-class in appearance, but is commonplace in reality—‘Queen Anne’ means ‘beautiful’, as opposed to ‘Mary Ann’, meaning ‘vile’; ‘low’; ‘mean’

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‘Liverpool gentleman’: meaning and origin

UK, 1839—a Liverpudlian, especially as opposed to a Mancunian—from the 19th-century distinction between the Liverpudlians, who were involved in trading, and the Mancunians, who were involved in manufacturing

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origin of ‘impressionist’ and ‘impressionism’

‘impressionist’ (1875) from French ‘impressionniste’ (1874)—a painter who was an exponent of ‘impressionism’ (1877), a movement in painting developed in France in the last third of the 19th century—French ‘impressionnisme’ may have been coined in 1858

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‘wetback’ and its sardonic variant ‘dryback’

USA, 1920: ‘wetback’: an illegal immigrant who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to the USA—by extension: any illegal immigrant who entered a foreign country by swimming—Mexico and USA, 1994: ‘espaldas secas’, i.e., ‘dry backs’: the U.S. citizens working in Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement

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notes on the phrase ‘sing ’em muck’

1928 in Clara Butt: Her Life-Story, by H. W. Ponder—“Sing ’em muck! It’s all they can understand!”: advice given by Australian soprano Nellie Melba to English contralto Clara Butt, who was about to undertake a tour of Australia

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