‘a Jap on Anzac Day’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1973—used of anything that is absolutely unacceptable, and of any disagreeable situation or experience—‘Jap’: derogatory shortening of ‘Japanese’—Anzac Day: commemoration of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915

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‘to go ballistic’: meanings and origin

1980s—to become wildly or explosively angry; to become highly excited or enthusiastic; to intensify rapidly and especially alarmingly—refers to the failure of a guided missile’s guidance system (1966)

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‘bang for the buck’: meaning and origin

USA, 1953—value for money, return on an investment—originally used of military spending on nuclear weapons—‘bang’ denotes a nuclear explosion, ‘buck’ denotes a dollar

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‘zero tolerance’: meanings and early occurrences

USA—1940: a policy of non-acceptance with regard to a specified situation, activity, result, substance, etc.—1971: a policy of non-acceptance with regard to abusive, anti-social or criminal behaviour, especially the use of illegal drugs

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‘paper tiger’: meaning and origin

UK, 1836—a person, country, etc., that appears powerful or threatening but is actually weak or ineffective—from Chinese ‘zhǐlǎohǔ’ (‘zhǐ’, paper, ‘lǎohǔ’, tiger)—used in the post-war years by the Chinese Communist Party of the USA and other reactionaries

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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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‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’: meanings and origin

UK, 1808—to make one’s beliefs or intentions plain—from the former practice of nailing an ensign to the mast of a ship, after damage during battle resulted in the ship’s colours no longer being clearly displayed, which otherwise might have been interpreted as a signal of surrender

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‘to beat the Dutch’: meaning and origin

USA, 1775—to do or say something remarkable or startling—the precise underlying notion in the choice of ‘Dutch’ is not clear—‘Dutch’ occurs in a number of derogatory or derisive English phrases

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