‘Tory-lite’: meanings and origin

UK, 1995—a derogatory designation of New Labour, i.e., a right-wing/social democratic trend in Labour thinking and policy, advocated by Tony Blair—‘Tory’: the British Conservative Party; ‘lite’ (phonetic respelling of the adjective ‘light’): a moderated version of something

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‘to pass the parcel’: meaning and origin

UK—(used of a group of people) to keep passing the initiative or responsibility from one person to another, so that no action is taken—refers to a party game in which a gift wrapped in several layers of paper is passed around a circle of players to the accompaniment of music, the losers in successive rounds being those holding the parcel when the accompanying music stops

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‘to trail one’s coat’: meaning and origin

UK, 1837—to go out of one’s way to start a quarrel or a fight—refers to the Irish practice of dragging one’s coat behind one in the expectation that somebody will, intentionally or unintentionally, step on it and provide the pretext needed for a quarrel or a fight

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‘my stars and garters!’: meaning and origin

1758—humorous exclamation expressing surprise, excitement, etc.—‘star’: a badge in the shape of, or ornamented with, a star, worn as part of the insignia of an order of knighthood or of chivalry—‘garter’: the badge of the highest order of English knighthood, i.e., the Order of the Garter

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‘Spy Wednesday’: meaning and origin

Ireland, 1809—the Wednesday before Easter—refers to the day on which Judas Iscariot formed the intent to betray Jesus—‘spy’ denotes ‘one who spies upon, or watches, a person or persons secretly’, because, from Wednesday onwards, Judas Iscariot secretly sought an opportunity to deliver Jesus to the Jewish authorities

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‘Bloomsday’: meanings and origin

the 16th of June 1904; also the 16th of June of any year, on which celebrations take place, especially in Ireland, to mark the anniversary of the events in Ulysses (1922), by the Irish author James Joyce—Leopold Bloom is one of the central characters in Ulysses, in which all the action takes place on one day, the 16th of June 1904

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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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