origin of ‘sneeze’

The verb ‘sneeze’ is an alteration of the obsolete verb ‘fnese’ due to misreading or misprinting it as ‘ſnese’ (= ‘snese’).

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padoodle (one-eyed car)

padoodle (USA): exclamation shouted by a person who spots a car with only one working headlight, which entitles this person to kiss or hit someone else

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origin of ‘pink’

The noun ‘pink’ for the flower is perhaps short for ‘pink eye’, ‘small or half-shut eye’ (cf. French ‘œillet’, ‘carnation’, diminutive of ‘œil’, ‘eye’).

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(with) tongue in cheek

The phrase ‘(with) tongue in cheek’ originally referred to a sign of contempt or derision consisting in sticking one’s tongue in one’s cheek.

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cat-o’-nine-tails

  cat-o’-nine-tails (1866-79) – photograph: National Maritime Museum     The noun cat-o’-nine-tails denotes a rope whip with nine knotted cords, formerly used, especially at sea, to flog offenders. This instrument of punishment was authorised in the British navy and army until 1881. The word is first recorded in Love for love (London, 1695), a comedy […]

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show a leg

  HOW A SAILOR BEGINS HIS DAY’S WORK A Scene on board H.M.S. “Trafalgar.” The boatswain blows his whistle at 5 o’clock in the morning and cries, “All hands.” Diving in and out beneath the hammocks he goes with bent head calling the same old cry of Nelson’s day: “Rise and shine. Show a leg—show […]

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MAMIL

  photograph from When exercise is dangerous: Endurance races risky for group sometimes called ‘middle-aged men in Lycra’ – the Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) – 17th July 2013     The word MAMIL is an acronym from the initial letters of middle-aged man in Lycra, probably punningly after mammal. Humorous and somewhat depreciative, it denotes a middle-aged […]

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Simon says

    Of American-English origin, Simon says denotes a children’s game in which players must obey the leader’s instructions only if they are prefaced with the words Simon says; it also denotes the command itself. The name Simon was probably chosen for alliterative effect (Simon says). The earliest instance that I have found is the […]

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to chance one’s arm

    The informal British phrase to chance one’s arm means to undertake something although it may be dangerous or unsuccessful. Its origin is unclear. The earliest use that I have found is from How our blue-jackets are fed, an article about the “diet of the British sailor at sea” published in The Weekly Telegraph […]

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