‘to sell sand in the Sahara’: meaning and origin

USA, 1907—refers to the supply of something to a place where it is not needed—in particular, ‘could sell sand in the Sahara’ is applied to an efficient salesman, and, by extension, to a persuasive person

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‘pester power’: meaning and origin

USA, 1979—the children’s ability to pressurise their parents into buying something, or doing something for them, by continuing to ask for it until their parents agree to do it—originally referred to television advertising targeting children

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‘Fiji uncle’: meaning and early occurrences

Australia, 1888—defined by Wilkes in A Dictionary of Australian Colloquialisms (1990) as “An imaginary rich uncle overseas, backing some venture in which the unwary may be persuaded to invest.”

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‘not to have two yachts to rub together’

applied to a rich person complaining of having insufficient means of existence; to a person who is merely free from financial worry—USA, 1936—coined humorously after ‘not to have two pennies to rub together’

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‘Mondayitis’: meaning and early occurrences

reluctance to attend school or work, or a reduction in working efficiency, experienced on a Monday morning—UK and USA, 1908; Australia, 1910—the suffix ‘-itis’ is applied to a state of mind or tendency fancifully regarded as a disease

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‘Queen Anne’s fan’: meaning and early occurrences

UK, 1883—a gesture of derision made by putting one’s thumb to one’s nose and outspreading the fingers like a fan; can be intensified by joining the tip of the little finger to the thumb of the other hand, whose fingers are also outspread fanwise—the motivation for the choice of ‘Queen Anne’ is unknown

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