the straight and narrow

‘The straight and narrow’: allusion to the Sermon on the Mount. ‘Straight’ is an alteration of ‘strait’, meaning ‘so narrow as to make transit difficult’.

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to send to Coventry

probable origin: in 1642, during the English Civil War, Royalists had been captured at Birmingham and sent to Coventry, which was a Parliamentarian stronghold.

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Gorgeous Wrecks

‘Gorgeous Wrecks’ (UK, WWI): members of the Volunteer Training Corps, from the letters ‘G.R.’ (‘Government Recognition’) interpreted as meaning ‘Georgius Rex’

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origin and meanings of ‘jingo’

The current sense of ‘jingo’ originated in a 1877 patriotic song adopted by the bellicose factions within the Conservative Party during the Russo-Turkish war.

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origin of ‘cap-a-pie’

English ‘cap-a-pie’ is from ‘de cap à pied’, ‘from head to foot’, used in Occitan and in the Middle French of southern France.

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the various meanings of ‘earthling’

Before being a science-fiction term used by aliens to refer to an inhabitant of the earth, ‘earthling’ denoted an inhabitant of the earth as opposed to heaven.

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‘Scouse’ (Liverpudlian)

The original sense of ‘Scouse’, denoting a person from Liverpool, is ‘a stew’. The word ‘scouse’ is in turn a shortening of ‘lobscouse’, of obscure origin.

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over the top

‘Over the top’, which means ‘excessive’, originated as a WWI expression meaning ‘over the parapet of a trench and into battle’.

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toot sweet

    The adverb toot sweet means straight away, immediately. Humorously after the English words toot and sweet, it represents an anglicised pronunciation of the synonymous French adverb tout de suite. Before the First World War, it was only used in representations of French speech. For example, an article titled Galloglossia, published in Sharpe’s London Magazine […]

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cat-o’-nine-tails

  cat-o’-nine-tails (1866-79) – photograph: National Maritime Museum     The noun cat-o’-nine-tails denotes a rope whip with nine knotted cords, formerly used, especially at sea, to flog offenders. This instrument of punishment was authorised in the British navy and army until 1881. The word is first recorded in Love for love (London, 1695), a comedy […]

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