‘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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‘Kathleen Mavourneen’: meaning and origin

used attributively of something that may not have an end for years, if ever—especially used of a loan that the borrower refuses to pay back, and of hire purchase—refers to the line “It may be for years, and it may be for ever” in the song ‘Kathleen Mavourneen’ (1835)

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‘Paris syndrome’: meaning and origin

1992—the culture shock experienced by an individual (typically a Japanese) who, when visiting, or living in, Paris, realises that this city does not fulfil their idealised expectations—apparently a loan translation from Japanese ‘Pari shōkōgun’, coined by Japanese psychiatrist Hiroaki Ōta

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‘different ships, different long splices’: meaning and origin

1922—nautical—figuratively, means that different countries (or cities, spheres of activity, etc.) have different customs or practices—‘long splice’: a splice in which the ends of two ropes are interwoven in such a way that the point of joining and the ropes are of equal thickness

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‘until Nelson gets his eye back’: meaning and origin

UK and Ireland—with reference to the fact that Horatio Nelson was blinded in one eye—(1922) ‘until/when Nelson gets his eye back’ is used of a very long time in the future—(1933) the metaphor of Nelson getting his eye back is used of a very small chance of success

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