‘iron maiden’: meaning and origin

1757, as a loan translation of German ‘Eiserne Jungfer’ (German text published in 1740)—1837, as a loan translation of German ‘Eiserne Jungfrau’—an instrument of torture, supposedly used during the Middle Ages, consisting of an upright coffin-shaped box lined with iron spikes, into which the victim is shut

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‘budgie smugglers’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1998—a pair of short, tight-fitting men’s swimming trunks—refers to the appearance of the male genitals in figure-hugging trunks—‘budgie’: colloquial abbreviation of ‘budgerigar’, denoting a small Australian parrot

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‘red-light district’: meaning and origin

USA, 1893—the part of a town or city in which prostitution and other commercial sexual activities are concentrated—originally used of Louisville, Kentucky—from the use of a red light as a sign outside a brothel

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‘butterfingered’ | ‘butterfingers’

‘butterfingered’, adjective, 1615: having a tendency to let things fall or slip from one’s hands—also (English, regional) unable or unwilling to handle hot items with one’s bare hands—‘butterfingers’, noun, 1835: a butterfingered person, a person with a tendency to let things fall or slip from his or her hands

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‘see that’s wet, see that’s dry’: meaning and origin

Ireland, 1889—emphasises the truthfulness and sincerity of what one is saying—derives from a children’s oath which involved licking a finger, drying it, and drawing it across the throat while saying “My finger’s wet. My finger’s dry. Cut my throat if I tell a lie.”

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