‘a car crash in slow motion’: meaning and origin

a chaotic or disastrous situation that holds a ghoulish fascination for observers—UK, 1980, as ‘like viewing a car crash in slow motion’—USA, 1991, used without ‘like’ by George Colony, president of Forrester Research

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‘panier de crabes’: meaning and origin

1942—an arena of fierce or ruthless rivalry—borrowed from French: literally ‘basket of crabs’—the image is of crabs fighting, if not devouring one another, when kept in a basket

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‘kippers and curtains’: meaning and origin

UK, 1934—used of a person who pretends to be well-off despite having little money—the image is of a person who has expensive curtains on the windows of their house, but subsists on a diet of inexpensive fish

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‘nuppence’: meaning and origin

no money, nothing—UK, 1864, in a text by the British scholar D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson—from ‘n-’ in the determiner ‘no’, meaning ‘not any’, and ‘-uppence’ in ‘tuppence’

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‘squeeze pidgin’: meaning and origin

China, 1849—extortion—from ‘squeeze’, denoting a forced exaction or impost made by a Chinese official or servant, and ‘pidgin’ in its original sense of business

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‘pan-loafy’: meaning and origin

Scotland, 1941—of a person, manner of speaking, etc.: affectedly refined or cultivated, pretentious—from the fact that a pan-loaf (i.e., a loaf baked in a pan or tin, having a hard, smooth crust), being more expensive than a plain loaf, was considered a sign of affluence

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‘pound-noteish’: meaning and origin

UK, 1927—affected, pompous—from ‘pound note’ and the suffix ‘-ish’, meaning ‘having the qualities of’—the image is probably of someone who pretends to be worth a pound sterling when they are actually worth less

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‘wood-and-water joey’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1847—an odd-job man—‘wood-and-water’ alludes to the phrase ‘hewer of wood and drawer of water’, designating a labourer of the lowest kind—‘joey’ is perhaps the noun denoting a young kangaroo, and by extension anything young or small

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attributive use of ‘postcode’

UK, 1993—meaning: influenced or determined by a person’s locality or postal address—in phrases such as ‘postcode discrimination’—frequently with reference to the unequal provision of healthcare

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