the British use of ‘dole’

(British) benefit paid by the state to the unemployed (1919)—from Middle-English sense ‘food or money given in charity’—from primary sense ‘portion’, ‘share’

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the colonial origin of ‘kidnap’

original meaning of ‘kidnap’, late 17th century—to steal or carry off children or others in order to provide servants or labourers for the American plantations

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origin of ‘geek’

19th century, northern England—apparently a variant of ‘geck’, of Germanic origin, meaning ‘a fool’, ‘a dupe’, ‘an oaf’

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‘shiver my timbers’

British, 18th century—a mock oath attributed to sailors, meaning ‘may my ship’s beams be broken into pieces’—early variants used by Tobias Smollett

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the making of ‘omelette’

1611—from French ‘omelette’, ultimately an alteration of ‘lemelle’, ‘knife blade’ (from Latin ‘lamella’), with reference to the flattened shape of the dish

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origin of ‘the Slough of Despond’

the name of a deep boggy place at the beginning of Christian’s journey to the Celestial City in ‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ (1678), by John Bunyan

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origin of ‘eavesdrop’

‘To eavesdrop’ originally referred to standing within the eavesdrop (the ground on to which water drips from the eaves of a house) in order to overhear what is going on inside.

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let the cobbler stick to his last

‘Let the cobbler stick to his last’ goes back to Pliny’s story of the Greek artist Apelles answering a cobbler who had criticised one of his paintings.

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