‘hovercraft’: meanings and origin

a vehicle which travels on a cushion of air—UK, 1958, apparently coined by engineer Christopher Sydney Cockerell—also, USA, 1958, in the sense of “a flying car”

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‘spud-barber’: meaning and origin

jocular—denotes ‘one who peels potatoes’—also used as a verb meaning ‘to peel potatoes’—1915, USA—other early occurrences, Australia

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‘capsize’: meaning, early occurrences and origin

to upset, to overturn—1777—origin unknown—perhaps based on Spanish ‘capuzar’, meaning ‘to sink (a ship) by the head’—or perhaps based on a Provençal compound of ‘cap’, meaning ‘head’

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‘roaring forties’: literal and figurative meanings

(1836) stormy ocean tracts between latitudes 40° and 50° south—(1867) the fifth decade of life—(1888) the 1840s—(1913) the stretch of Broadway through Times Square, in New York City—(nautical slang) naval commanders aged between 40 and 50 who ‘roar’ commands

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‘jerry-builder’: meaning and origin

Liverpool (Lancashire, north-western England), 1833—a speculating builder who constructs cheap houses, flats, etc., with materials of poor quality, for a quick profit—the origin of the element ‘jerry’ is unknown

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‘Johnny Crapaud’: meanings and origin

UK, 1805—personifies France or the French people, or designates a typical Frenchman—composed of ‘Johnny’, a pet form of ‘John’ used, with modifying word, to designate a person of the type, group, etc., specified, and of French ‘crapaud’ (a toad)—coined by British sailors during the Napoleonic Wars

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‘to spin a yarn’: meaning and origin

UK and USA, 1816—to tell a long, far-fetched story—of nautical origin? (perhaps alludes to making ropes from lengths of yarn on board ship: the men would have told one another stories while performing this long and tedious task)

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‘Tom Pepper’: meaning and early occurrences

USA, 1812—UK, 1818—the name of a character proverbially said to have been so great a liar that he was expelled from Hell—hence, frequently in ‘a bigger liar than Tom Pepper’, and variants: an outrageous liar

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‘half seas over’: meanings and origin

literal meaning (1551): halfway across the sea—figurative meanings (1692): halfway towards a goal or destination, half through with a matter, halfway between one state and another—also (1699): half drunk

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