‘the eighth wonder of the world’: meaning and origin

1613—used hyperbolically of any impressive object, etc.—also applied ironically to a self-satisfied or arrogant person—refers to the seven wonders of the world, i.e., the seven most spectacular man-made structures of the ancient world

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‘a Jap on Anzac Day’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1973—used of anything that is absolutely unacceptable, and of any disagreeable situation or experience—‘Jap’: derogatory shortening of ‘Japanese’—Anzac Day: commemoration of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915

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‘Siberian Express’: meaning and origin

American English—a surge of extremely cold air which causes rapid falls in temperature and severe wintry weather in central and eastern areas of the United States and Canada—after ‘Trans-Siberian Express’, the name of a railway running from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan

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How ‘tycoon’ acquired its current sense in 1860.

From Japanese ‘taikun’, ‘tycoon’ was originally the title by which the shogun of Japan was described to foreigners. The current sense originated in the Japanese Embassy to the United States in 1860, not from the use of ‘tycoon’ as a nickname of Abraham Lincoln.

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origin of ‘to miss the bus’ (to miss an opportunity)

The phrase to miss the bus, or the boat, etc., means to be too slow to take advantage of an opportunity. In A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), B. A. Phythian explained: This expression is said to originate in an Oxford story of the 1840s about John Henry Newman, fellow of Oriel College, […]

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origin of ‘corduroy’: ‘colour de roy’ (i.e. king’s colour)?

MEANING   a heavy cotton pile fabric with lengthways ribs   ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The original form of this noun, in the late 18th century, was corderoy. The earliest use of the word that I have found is from The Manchester Mercury (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Tuesday 7th April 1772:           […]

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The usual explanation of ‘Hobson’s choice’ is fallacious.

It was only from the mere accident of his bearing the name that he did that the phrase ‘Hobson’s choice’ was applied to Thomas Hobson (1544-1631), an English liveryman who supposedly gave his customers no choice but to take the horse closest to the stable door or none at all.     MEANING   Hobson’s […]

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