‘no names, no pack drill’: meaning and origin

UK, 1890—used to indicate that the person or persons guilty of a misdemeanour will not be named, in order to spare them recrimination—‘pack drill’: a military punishment involving a lengthy period of marching up and down carrying full equipment

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‘to go to Specsavers’: meaning and origin

UK and Ireland—used of someone who makes a mistake because of poor eyesight—refers to the British optical retail chain Specsavers Optical Group Ltd, in particular to its advertising slogan, ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’

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‘neighbour(s) from hell’: meaning and early occurrences

UK, 1993—USA, 1987—the words ‘—— from hell’ are suffixed to nouns often referring to everyday life, such as ‘holidays’ and ‘neighbour(s)’, to make phrases denoting an exceptionally unpleasant or bad example or instance of ‘——’

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‘better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick’

British and Irish English, 1833—denotes qualified pleasure—also: ‘to give [someone] a poke in the eye (with a — stick)’, meaning to deprecate [someone]—from ‘a poke in the eye’, denoting something undesirable

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‘pester power’: meaning and origin

USA, 1979—the children’s ability to pressurise their parents into buying something, or doing something for them, by continuing to ask for it until their parents agree to do it—originally referred to television advertising targeting children

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‘Queen Anne’s fan’: meaning and early occurrences

UK, 1883—a gesture of derision made by putting one’s thumb to one’s nose and outspreading the fingers like a fan; can be intensified by joining the tip of the little finger to the thumb of the other hand, whose fingers are also outspread fanwise—the motivation for the choice of ‘Queen Anne’ is unknown

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British and Irish uses of ‘more front than’

denotes effrontery—‘front’ denotes self-assurance, but the word that follows ‘than’ puns on ‘front’ in the sense of the façade of a building, a long seafront, etc.—also denotes a well-endowed woman, with reference to ‘front’ in the sense of a woman’s bust

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notes on ‘four-leaved clover’ and ‘even ash’

‘four-leaved clover’: a rare form of clover leaf having four leaflets, regarded as a lucky charm or sign of good fortune—superstition mentioned as early as 1620—sometimes associated with ‘even ash’, a rare form of ash leaf having an even number of leaflets

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