‘the order of the boot’: meaning and origin

dismissal from employment—UK, 1882, as ‘the noble order of the boot’—‘the boot’ refers to kicking somebody out—the phrase puns on two acceptations of ‘order’: an authoritative command and an institution founded for the purpose of honouring meritorious conduct

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‘the whole caboodle’: meaning and origin

USA, 1839—the whole group or set of people, animals or things—origin unknown—perhaps from the Dutch expression ‘de hele kit en boedel’, meaning ‘the entire house and everything in it’

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‘in a cleft stick’: meaning and origin

UK, 1710—in a situation in which any action one takes will have adverse consequences—‘cleft’, past participle of the verb ‘cleave’, means ‘split in two to a certain depth’—the image is of one being squeezed between the stick’s prongs

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‘Hollywood ending’: meanings and origin

USA, 1927—a conventional film ending, regarded as sentimental or simplistic, and often featuring an improbably positive outcome—by extension: an improbably positive outcome to a real-life situation

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‘bush telegraph’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1863—originally referred to any chain of communications by which bushrangers were warned of police movements—soon extended to any rapid informal network by which information, rumour, gossip, etc., is spread

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‘cold turkey’ (as used of a drug addict)

USA, 1917—a method of treating a drug addict by sudden and complete withdrawal of the drug, instead of by a gradual process—alludes to the goose pimples, resembling the skin of a cold turkey, that a person experiences as a side effect of the treatment

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‘like billy-o’: meaning and origin

UK, 1860—very much, very intensely—‘billy-o’ occurs only in this phrase—it is apparently composed of ‘Billy’, pet form of the male forename ‘William’, and the suffix ‘-o’, used to form slang and colloquial nouns, adjectives and interjections

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‘Vaseline Valley’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1982—a stretch of Oxford Street, in Sydney, which is the city’s main gay district—refers to the use of Vaseline to ease anal intercourse, and based on the alliteration in /v/

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