origin of ‘to crawl out of the woodwork’

USA, 1930—‘to crawl, or to come, out of the woodwork’: of an unpleasant or unwelcome person or thing, to come out of hiding, to emerge from obscurity; the image is of vermin or insects crawling out of crevices or other hidden places in a building

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meaning and origin of ‘Dutch auction’

UK, 1788—denotes an auction in which the price is lowered by stages until a buyer is found—said to have been invented by the Dutch specifically as the best solution to selling tulip bulbs

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a phrase based on prejudice: ‘Dutch courage’

UK, 1797—strength or confidence gained from drinking alcohol—alludes to the drinking habits ascribed to the Dutch—one of the phrases in which ‘Dutch’ is used derogatorily, largely because of the enmity between the English and the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries

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the history of ‘burnsides’, ‘sideburns’ and ‘sideboards’

After Ambrose Burnside, Union general in the U.S. Civil War, ‘burnsides’ (1866) denotes thick side whiskers worn with a moustache and clean-shaven chin; on the pattern of ‘side whiskers’, it was altered to ‘sideburns’ (1875), itself altered to ‘sideboards’ (1882).

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‘to fall off (the back of) a lorry’ (‘to be stolen’)

UK, 1953, humorous and euphemistic—‘to fall off (the back of) a lorry’: of goods, ‘to be acquired in dubious or unspecified circumstances’, especially ‘to be stolen’—variant with ‘truck’ came into use later in Australian and North American English

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origin of ‘bobby’ and ‘peeler’ (‘police officer’)

UK, 1844—‘bobby’: a policeman—from ‘Bobby’, pet form of ‘Robert’, in allusion to Robert Peel, who, as Home Secretary, established the Metropolitan Police in 1829—cf. ‘peeler’ (1816), originally a member of the Peace Preservation Force in Ireland established in 1814 by Robert Peel

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‘take the Fifth’: decline to reveal one’s own secrets

‘to take the Fifth’: to decline to reveal one’s own secrets—from ‘to take the Fifth Amendment’: to appeal to Article V of the original amendments to the U.S. Constitution, which states that “No person […] shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.”

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origin of ‘rival’: one using the same stream as another

From ‘rīvus’, ‘a stream’, the Latin adjective ‘rīvālis’ (of, or belonging to, a stream) was used as a plural noun, ‘rīvāles’, to denote persons who have to use the same stream, and persons who have the same mistress, competitors in love.

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the Page-Three girl of the British tabloid The Sun

British English—‘Page Three’, or ‘Page 3’: a feature which appeared daily on page three of the British tabloid The Sun (London), and included a pin-up picture of a topless or nude young woman; this feature first appeared on 17 November 1970.

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‘pupil’: one’s own reflection in somebody’s eye

A diminutive of ‘pūpa’ (‘a girl’, in transferred use also ‘a doll’), the Latin feminine noun ‘pūpilla’ came to also denote ‘the pupil of the eye’ on account of one’s own reflection seen when looking into somebody’s eye—the same metaphor underlies ‘to look babies in somebody’s eyes’.

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