‘like a million dollars’ vs. ‘like thirty cents’

USA—‘to look, or to feel, (like) a million dollars’, or ‘(like) a million bucks’: to look, or to feel, extremely good, or extremely attractive (early 20th century)—sometimes used in contrast to ‘like thirty, or 30, cents’: cheap, worthless (late 19th century)

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adolescence: ‘the awkward age’ – ‘l’âge ingrat’

UK, 1832—‘the awkward age’: the adolescence, when one is no longer a child but not yet properly grown up, a time of life characterised by physical and emotional changes—translates in French as ‘l’âge ingrat’, ‘the thankless age’

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the Shakespearean origin of ‘to flutter the dovecotes’

UK, 1831—to startle or upset a sedate or conventionally-minded community—most probably from the following lines in The Tragedy of Coriolanus (circa 1607), by William Shakespeare: “like an eagle in a dove-cote, I | Flutter’d your Volscians in Corioli”

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the history of ‘burnsides’, ‘sideburns’ and ‘sideboards’

After Ambrose Burnside, Union general in the U.S. Civil War, ‘burnsides’ (1866) denotes thick side whiskers worn with a moustache and clean-shaven chin; on the pattern of ‘side whiskers’, it was altered to ‘sideburns’ (1875), itself altered to ‘sideboards’ (1882).

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A dunce was originally a follower of John Duns Scotus.

‘dunce’: originally a follower of John Duns Scotus (circa 1265-1308), scholastic theologian; in the 16th century, Scotus’s system was attacked with ridicule by the humanists and the reformers as a farrago of needless entities and useless distinctions

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‘slipshod’: ‘wearing loose shoes or slippers’

‘slipshod’: ‘characterised by a lack of care, thought or organisation’—formed after the obsolete noun ‘slip-shoe’ (= ‘a loosely fitting shoe or slipper’); ‘shod’ (meaning ‘wearing shoes’) is the past participle of the verb ‘shoe’

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the curious history of ‘Quorn’ (meat substitute)

The name ‘Quorn’ was first registered as a trademark—for certain edible products other than meat substitutes—by the Quorn Specialities Company of Leicester, England, in 1914. The meat substitute was subsequently developed by the successors of this company.

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How ‘tycoon’ acquired its current sense in 1860.

From Japanese ‘taikun’, ‘tycoon’ was originally the title by which the shogun of Japan was described to foreigners. The current sense originated in the Japanese Embassy to the United States in 1860, not from the use of ‘tycoon’ as a nickname of Abraham Lincoln.

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The literal meaning of ‘cappuccino’ is ‘Capuchin’.

USA, 1948—espresso coffee mixed with steamed milk—borrowed from Italian ‘cappuccino’, literally ‘Capuchin’, because the colour of this type of coffee resembles that of a Capuchin’s habit—cf. French ‘capucin’ (= ‘Capuchin’), a name for the hare, from the colour of the animal’s fur

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‘See you later, alligator’ originated in U.S. teenagers’ slang.

    The colloquial see you later, alligator, which originated in American English, is a catchphrase used on parting. The expected response is in, or after, a while, crocodile. The earliest instance that I have found is from Teenagers’ Slang Expressions Are Explained by Columnists, by “Jackie and Jane, Star-Bulletin Teen Columnists”, published in the […]

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