‘Indian burn’: meaning and origin

USA, 1937, as a wrestling term—an act of placing both hands on a person’s wrist or arm and then twisting it to produce a burning sensation—alludes to the fiendish methods of torture attributed to the ‘(Red) Indians’

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‘Chinese burn’: meaning and origin

UK, 1956, children’s slang—an act of placing both hands on a person’s wrist or arm and then twisting it to produce a burning sensation—alludes to the fiendish methods of torture attributed to the Chinese

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‘to cover more ground than Burke and Wills’

Australia, 1952—to travel a long distance—refers to the Burke and Wills expedition of 1860-61, which aimed to cross Australia from Melbourne, in the south, to the Gulf of Carpentaria, in the north

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‘lager lout’: meaning and origin

UK, 1987—a young man who behaves in an unpleasant or aggressive manner as a result of drinking (typically lager) excessively—lager, a pale beer, is favoured by the young as opposed to the dark, traditional bitter English beer

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British and Irish uses of ‘more front than’

denotes effrontery—‘front’ denotes self-assurance, but the word that follows ‘than’ puns on ‘front’ in the sense of the façade of a building, a long seafront, etc.—also denotes a well-endowed woman, with reference to ‘front’ in the sense of a woman’s bust

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meaning and origin of ‘nothingburger’ and of ‘mouseburger’

‘nothingburger’: a person or thing of no importance, value or substance—‘mouseburger’: a young woman of unexceptional appearance and talents, regarded as timid, dowdy or mousy—from the use of ‘burger’ as the second element in compounds denoting types of hamburger

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‘in clover’: meaning and origin of this phrase

UK, 1710—in ease and luxury—refers to the use of clover as fodder, as explained by Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755): “To live in Clover, is to live luxuriously; clover being extremely delicious and fattening to cattle.”

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notes on ‘four-leaved clover’ and ‘even ash’

‘four-leaved clover’: a rare form of clover leaf having four leaflets, regarded as a lucky charm or sign of good fortune—superstition mentioned as early as 1620—sometimes associated with ‘even ash’, a rare form of ash leaf having an even number of leaflets

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early Australian uses of ‘more front than’

denotes effrontery—‘front’ denotes self-assurance, but the word that follows ‘than’ puns on ‘front’ in the sense of the façade of a building, the part of a garment covering a person’s front, etc.

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