origin of the British-English word ‘bonkers’

British English, first recorded, apparently as army slang, in 1945—probably from ‘bonk’ (= a blow on the head) and the suffix ‘-ers’ as in ‘ravers’ (from ‘raving mad’) and ‘starkers’ (from ‘stark mad’)

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a U.S. political term of the 1920s: ‘backroom boys’

The phrase ‘boys in the backroom’, or ‘backroom boys’, appeared in the 1920s as a U.S. political term denoting persons exercising a surreptitious influence. The Oxford English Dictionary is therefore mistaken in saying that it originally denoted, in 1941, persons engaged in research.

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‘better red than dead’ – ‘better dead than red’

During the Cold War, especially in the context of a possible nuclear war, ‘better red than dead’ was used to warn against uncompromising opposition to communism, while ‘better dead than red’ was used to express unconditional opposition to communism.

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from the trenches of WWI: ‘cootie’ (‘body louse’)

from army use on the Western Front during World War One: ‘cootie’, ‘body louse’, ‘cooty’, ‘infested with lice’, ‘coot’, ‘louse’, probably ultimately refer to the aquatic bird called ‘coot’, reputed to be lice-infested

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‘Zeppelins in a cloud’ (‘sausage and mash’)

early 20th century—‘Zeppelins in a cloud’ and variants mean ‘sausage and mash’—during World War One, the phrase was used as a manner of disregarding the fear caused by the bombing raids carried out by Zeppelin airships

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a WWI phrase: ‘san fairy ann’ (‘that doesn’t matter’)

An expression of indifference to, or resigned acceptance of, a state of affairs, ‘san fairy ann’ jocularly represents the French phrase ‘ça ne fait rien’, meaning ‘that doesn’t matter’. It originated in army use on the Western Front during the First World War.

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the changing identities of the doryphore

Greek ‘δορυϕόρος’ (‘doruphόros’) meant ‘spearman’; in French, ‘doryphore’ denotes the Colorado beetle and the German occupying forces during WWII; in English, it denotes a pedantic and annoyingly persistent critic.

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