‘Barney’s bull’: meanings and early occurrences

Australia, 1834—used in various phrases, in particular as a type of someone or something in a very bad state or condition—also in the phrase ‘all behind like Barney’s bull’, meaning ‘very delayed’ or ‘backward’—origin unknown

Read More

‘charity dame’ | ‘charity moll’: meaning and origin

Australia—‘charity dame’ 1949—‘charity moll’ 1962—an amateur prostitute who charges less than the usual rate—from ‘Moll’, pet form of the female forename ‘Mary’, the noun ‘moll’ has long been used to designate a prostitute

Read More

‘kippers and curtains’: meaning and origin

UK, 1934—used of a person who pretends to be well-off despite having little money—the image is of a person who has expensive curtains on the windows of their house, but subsists on a diet of inexpensive fish

Read More

‘winedot’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1933—an addict of cheap wine or/and of methylated spirits—apparently coined jocularly after ‘Wyandotte’, denoting a domestic chicken of a medium-sized American breed

Read More

‘squeeze pidgin’: meaning and origin

China, 1849—extortion—from ‘squeeze’, denoting a forced exaction or impost made by a Chinese official or servant, and ‘pidgin’ in its original sense of business

Read More

‘toffee-nosed’: meaning and origin

UK, 1914—snobbish or supercilious—refers perhaps to ‘toff’, denoting a fashionable upper-class person—the image is perhaps of someone who, considering themself superior, keeps their nose high in contempt for the lower classes—cf. the form ‘toffy-nosed’ (1919)

Read More