meaning and origin of ‘forty winks’

early 19th century—probably a jocular application of ‘forty’ as an indefinite term for a large number—‘wink’ in the sense of ‘a closing of the eyes for sleep’

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘happy as a sandboy’

  The phrase (as) happy (or jolly) as a sandboy means extremely happy or carefree—cf. also happy as a clam and happy as Larry. A sandboy was a boy hawking sand for sale. It seems that the earliest use of the word is The Rider and Sand-boy: a Tale, the title of a poem written by a certain Mr Meyler and published in Harvest-Home in 1805: […]

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origin of ‘fly-by-night’ (unreliable or untrustworthy)

  Linda maestra! (Pretty teacher! – published in 1799) – by Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes (1746-1828)     The noun fly-by-night, or fly-by-nighter, denotes an unreliable or untrustworthy person. As an adjective, fly-by-night means unreliable or untrustworthy, especially in business or financial matters. However, the term seems to go back to the idea […]

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