‘glad and sorry’ (i.e., hire purchase)

UK, 1929—‘glad and sorry’ denotes hire purchase, i.e., a system by which one pays for a thing in regular instalments while having the use of it—the image is that the hire-purchaser is at the same time glad to have the use of the merchandise and sorry to still have to pay for it

Read More

‘Kathleen Mavourneen’: meaning and origin

used attributively of something that may not have an end for years, if ever—especially used of a loan that the borrower refuses to pay back, and of hire purchase—refers to the line “It may be for years, and it may be for ever” in the song ‘Kathleen Mavourneen’ (1835)

Read More

‘half seas over’: meanings and origin

literal meaning (1551): halfway across the sea—figurative meanings (1692): halfway towards a goal or destination, half through with a matter, halfway between one state and another—also (1699): half drunk

Read More

‘another brick in the wall’: meanings and origin

a small component of a much larger structure, system or process; an insignificant individual within a large population or community—commonly associated with ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, the title of a three-part composition by the British band Pink Floyd in their 1979 rock opera ‘The Wall’, but has been used since 1867

Read More

origin of ‘how are you off for soap?’

UK, 1816—a meaningless bantering phrase—originated in a print published in June, satirising the fact that a bill on additional taxation on soap had been brought in unobtrusively in May by the Chancellor of the Exchequer

Read More

‘man from Mars’: meaning and origin

USA, 1892—a hypothetical observer of human behaviour and society whose perspective would be entirely detached and objective—fictitious prose narratives told of visits either from, or to, Mars, and had for common theme that we are far behind Mars in discoveries in the material and spiritual worlds

Read More

‘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

Read More