a Lancashire phrase: ‘the full monty’

something in its entirety—UK, 2nd half of 20th cent.—the sense of striptease performance involving full nudity was popularised by the 1997 film The Full Monty.

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origin of ‘quiz’ (“Vir bonus est quis?”)?

Originally meaning ‘person of ridiculous appearance’, ‘quiz’ (students’ slang, late 18th century) was jocularly derived from the Latin interrogative pronoun ‘quis’ in “Vir bonus est quis?” (“Who is a good man?”)—a good, ingenuous, harmless man being likely to become an object of ridicule or even of harassment.

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meanings and history of the term ‘hot mess’

  This advertisement for the second season (2014) of comedienne Amy Schumer’s sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, highlighted both the “hot” and “mess” sides of her personality — photograph: Jamey Welch Creative   The primary meanings of the noun mess are a serving of food, a course, a meal, a prepared dish of a specified […]

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘to play to the gallery’

  the gods at the Comedy Theatre, London, 1949 source: Historic England – The Theatres Trust     Via Middle French galerie, the noun gallery, attested in the late 15th century, is from the medieval Latin of Italy galeria, an alteration of medieval Latin galilaea, designating a porch at the entrance of a monastery’s church—hence English […]

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘the cup that cheers’

    The phrase the cup that cheers but not inebriates and its variants refer to tea as a drink which invigorates a person without causing drunkenness. It is from The Winter Evening, the fourth book of The Task. A Poem, in six Books (1785), by the English poet and letter-writer William Cowper (1731-1800): Now stir the fire, and close the […]

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the authentic origin of the word ‘teetotal’

  tombstone of Richard ‘Dicky’ Turner at Preston “Beneath this stone are deposited the remains of Richard Turner, author of the word teetotal as applied to abstinence from all intoxicating liquors, who departed this life on the 27th day of October 1846, aged 56 years.” photograph: Paul D. Swarbrick     The adjective teetotal in […]

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meaning and origin of the phrase ‘widow’s cruse’

  The Prophet Elijah and the Widow of Sarepta (circa 1630-40), by Bernardo Strozzi (circa 1581-1644) – image: wikiart.org     The noun cruse denotes a small earthenware vessel for liquids. It is of Germanic origin and related to words such as Dutch kroes and Swedish krus, of same meaning. The expression widow’s cruse signifies an apparently small supply that proves inexhaustible. It is an allusion […]

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hunger strikes and ‘the Cat-and-Mouse Act’

  the Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-health) Act, 1913 – image: www.parliament.uk   The Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill-health) Act, 1913 was rushed through Parliament by Herbert Henry Asquith’s Liberal government in order to deal with the problem of hunger-striking suffragettes, who were force-fed, which led to a public outcry. The Act allowed for the […]

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origin of ‘to miss the bus’ (to miss an opportunity)

  The phrase to miss the bus, or the boat, etc., means to be too slow to take advantage of an opportunity. In A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), B. A. Phythian explained: This expression is said to originate in an Oxford story of the 1840s about John Henry Newman, fellow of Oriel […]

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origin of ‘corduroy’: ‘colour de roy’ (i.e. king’s colour)?

  photograph: javi.velazquez       MEANING   a heavy cotton pile fabric with lengthways ribs   ORIGIN: UNKNOWN   The original form of this noun, in the late 18th century, was corderoy. The earliest use of the word that I have found is from The Manchester Mercury (Manchester, Lancashire, England) of Tuesday 7th April 1772: […]

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