‘red-light district’: meaning and origin

USA, 1893—the part of a town or city in which prostitution and other commercial sexual activities are concentrated—originally used of Louisville, Kentucky—from the use of a red light as a sign outside a brothel

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‘Jenny Darby’ (policeman)

UK, 1830—‘Jenny Darby’, ‘Johnny Darm’, and variants, were originally opprobrious names for any member of the new Metropolitan Police introduced in 1829 by Robert Peel—alterations of ‘gendarme’, with full or partial folk-etymological remodelling variously after the female forename ‘Jenny’, the male forename ‘Johnny’, and the surname ‘Darby’

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‘Spy Wednesday’: meaning and origin

Ireland, 1809—the Wednesday before Easter—refers to the day on which Judas Iscariot formed the intent to betray Jesus—‘spy’ denotes ‘one who spies upon, or watches, a person or persons secretly’, because, from Wednesday onwards, Judas Iscariot secretly sought an opportunity to deliver Jesus to the Jewish authorities

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‘butty’: meanings and origin

Northern England—a filled or open sandwich—originally (1827): a slice of bread spread with butter—composed of ‘butt-’, from the noun ‘butter’, and the suffix ‘-y’, forming diminutive nouns

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‘Tom Pepper’: meaning and early occurrences

USA, 1812—UK, 1818—the name of a character proverbially said to have been so great a liar that he was expelled from Hell—hence, frequently in ‘a bigger liar than Tom Pepper’, and variants: an outrageous liar

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‘savoury duck’: meaning and origin

Lancashire, England, 1833—a faggot, a meatball, “a compound of onions, flour, and small pieces of pork” (The Liverpool Echo, 20 August 1880)—probably one of the common dishes humorously named after daintier items of food

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‘until Nelson gets his eye back’: meaning and origin

UK and Ireland—with reference to the fact that Horatio Nelson was blinded in one eye—(1922) ‘until/when Nelson gets his eye back’ is used of a very long time in the future—(1933) the metaphor of Nelson getting his eye back is used of a very small chance of success

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