‘segocia’: meaning and origin

a pal, a mate, a good friend—Ireland, 1939, in Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce—perhaps an anglicised form of Irish ‘Seo Dhuitse’ (‘Here you are’) or perhaps an anglicised form of French ‘Mon cher gosse’ (‘My dear child’)

Read More

‘witches’ knickers’: meaning and origin

Ireland, 2000—discarded plastic bags or shreds of plastic bags that have become snagged in trees, hedges, etc.—the image is of a witch’s undergarment that got caught in a tree or a hedge when she was flying

Read More

‘chocolate teapot’: meaning and origin

UK, 1967—something or someone that is utterly ineffectual—especially in phrases such as ‘as much use as a chocolate teapot’—variants: ‘chocolate kettle’, ‘chocolate fireplace’ and ‘chocolate fireguard’

Read More

‘handbags at ten paces’: meaning and origin

UK, 1978—(soccer players) a confrontation that does not lead to serious fighting—based on the cliché ‘pistols at ten paces’—the substitution of ‘pistols’ with ‘handbags’, which evokes women fighting with their handbags, expresses the histrionic character of the confrontation

Read More

‘frogspawn’ (tapioca pudding)

UK, 1921—‘frogspawn’: a jocular appellation for ‘tapioca pudding’ (also for ‘sago pudding’)—originated in schoolchildren’s slang—refers to the fact that both tapioca pudding and sago pudding very much resemble frogspawn, i.e., a soft substance like jelly which contains the eggs of a frog

Read More

‘where there’s muck, there’s brass’: meaning and origin

UK, 1907—means that dirty or unpleasant activities can be lucrative—in early use: (1735) ‘where there’s muck, there’s luck’ and (1774) ‘where there’s muck, there’s money’—the synonymous proverb ‘muck and money go together’ was recorded in 1678

Read More

‘royal we’: meaning and origin

UK, 1821—‘we’ used in place of ‘I’ by a monarch or other person in power, also (frequently humorously) by any individual—originated as a loan translation from French ‘nous royal’, as used of Napoléon Bonaparte by Madame de Staël in her memoirs published in 1821

Read More