‘Ruby Murray’: meaning and origin

UK, 1983—‘Ruby Murray’, the name of a Northern-Irish singer (1935-1996), is rhyming slang for the noun ‘curry’, denoting a dish of meat, vegetables, etc., cooked in an Indian-style sauce of hot-tasting spices and typically served with rice.

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‘bullamacow’: meanings and origin

islands of the South Pacific, 1881—cattle, beef, and, by extension, meat of any kind and tinned meat—a combination of the nouns ‘bull’ and ‘cow’

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‘T.W.O.C’: meaning and sociological background

UK, 1972—the offence of taking a car without the owner’s consent, especially for the purpose of joyriding, which was a social phenomenon prevalent in north-eastern England—acronym for ‘taking without owner’s consent’

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‘funny bone’: meaning and origin

UK, 1826—a place behind the bony point of the elbow at which a knock results in a sensation of tingling pain—in early use was perhaps partly punning on the homophones ‘humerus’ and ‘humorous’

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‘the whole caboodle’: meaning and origin

USA, 1839—the whole group or set of people, animals or things—origin unknown—perhaps from the Dutch expression ‘de hele kit en boedel’, meaning ‘the entire house and everything in it’

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‘the thick plottens’: meaning and origin

USA, 1883—deliberate transposition of the initial consonants of ‘plot’ and ‘thickens’ in ‘the plot thickens’—‘the plot thickens’, attested in 1672, means: the storyline becomes more complex or convoluted

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‘Vaseline Valley’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1982—a stretch of Oxford Street, in Sydney, which is the city’s main gay district—refers to the use of Vaseline to ease anal intercourse, and based on the alliteration in /v/

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‘a fox in a forest fire’: meanings and origin

USA, 1931—originated in sporting parlance—emphasises the meaning of the adjective it immediately follows—that adjective usually is ‘hot’ (used literally or figuratively) or describes agitation, erraticism

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‘paper yabber’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1888—denotes a letter (i.e., a written message)—‘yabber’: as a noun, denotes speech, language, talk; as a verb, means to talk—from an aboriginal stem ‘ya’, meaning to speak

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