‘squeeze pidgin’: meaning and origin

China, 1849—extortion—from ‘squeeze’, denoting a forced exaction or impost made by a Chinese official or servant, and ‘pidgin’ in its original sense of business

Read More

‘Mexican standoff’: meaning and origin

a situation in which neither side in an argument or contest can win—in early use: a situation in which a person loses their money, but saves their life—origin: an 1876 story in which a Mexican bandit robs a traveller from the USA, but lets him escape with his life

Read More

‘to pile Pelion upon Ossa’: meanings and origin

1609—to add to what is already great, also to add difficulty to difficulty—Pelion and Ossa are two mountains in Thessaly—in Greek mythology, two giants, Otus and Ephialtes, tried to pile Pelion and Ossa on Olympus in order to reach the gods and overthrow them

Read More

‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’: meaning and origin

UK, 1920—a group of three objects or persons—alludes to Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, a trio of animal characters featured in a children’s comic strip published in The Daily Mirror (London) from 1919 onwards

Read More

‘wood-and-water joey’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1847—an odd-job man—‘wood-and-water’ alludes to the phrase ‘hewer of wood and drawer of water’, designating a labourer of the lowest kind—‘joey’ is perhaps the noun denoting a young kangaroo, and by extension anything young or small

Read More