‘a rat with a gold tooth’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1972—a person, usually a man, who, in spite of a superficial smartness, is untrustworthy—‘rat’ refers to a deceitful or disloyal man—the image is that, despite the gold tooth, a rat’s basic nature cannot change

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‘white ants’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1879—With reference to the supposed destruction of the brain by white ants (i.e., termites), the plural noun ‘white ants’ is used of loss of sanity, sense or intelligence. (The singular noun ‘white ant’ occasionally occurred in early use.)

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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 The following definition is from an unpublished manuscript entitled Materials for a dictionary of Australian Slang, collected from 1900 to 1910, by Alfred George Stephens and S. J. O’Brien—as quoted by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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‘horror stretch’: meanings and origin

Australia—1954: a very unpleasant experience—originally, 1953: a particularly rough stretch of road on the 6,500-mile round-Australia Redex Reliability Trial of August-September 1953—hence, 1953: any particularly rough stretch of road

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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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‘blue-sky talk’ | ‘blue-sky research’

USA—‘blue-sky talk’ 1900—‘blue-sky research’ 1947—the adjective ‘blue-sky’ is used to mean: (in negative sense) fanciful, hypothetical; (in positive sense) creative or visionary—from the notion of a blue sky as a place free from disturbances or difficulties

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‘squander-bug’: meanings and origin (British usage)

1943—a devilish insect symbolising reckless extravagance and waste—introduced by the National Savings Committee in a government publicity campaign promoting economy—hence: one who is profligate with money or resources

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an Australian use of ‘boots under the bed’

has been used to denote evidence of a de facto relationship affecting a woman’s eligibility for Social-Security benefits—refers to past practices of field officers inspecting homes and bedrooms

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