meaning and origin of ‘to turn up one’s toes’

The phrase ‘to turn up one’s toes’, meaning ‘to die’, might have originated in the Irish-English phrase ‘to turn up one’s toes to the roots of the daisies’, first found in the passive form ‘with one’s toes turned up to the roots of the daisies’, meaning ‘lying dead’.

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original meaning of ‘to see the elephant’

U.S.—‘to see the elephant’: to see life, the world or the sights, as of a large city, to gain knowledge by experience. But in 1842, the original meaning of ‘to see the elephant’ was ‘to get sick and tired of something’.

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‘couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery’

In British slang, the noun ‘piss-up’ denotes ‘a heavy drinking bout’, and the phrase ‘couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery’ and variants mean ‘is’, or ‘are’, or ‘am’, ‘incapable of organising the simplest event, task, etc.’—phrase first recorded in 1980.

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British origin of Gotham, nickname for New York City

Many centuries before becoming a nickname for New York City and the name of a fictional city associated with the Batman stories, Gotham was used in Britain as the name of a (probably fictional) village proverbial for the folly of its inhabitants.

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‘To go to pot’ was originally a ‘culinary’ phrase.

The phrase ‘to go to pot’ means ‘to be ruined or destroyed’, ‘to go to pieces’, ‘to deteriorate through neglect’. The allusion is to the cutting up of meat into pieces ready for the cooking-pot, as several 16th-century texts make clear.

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meaning and origin of ‘violon d’Ingres’

First recorded in The Bystander (London) on 24 January 1906, this French phrase means ‘hobby, pastime’; it refers to the passion that the French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) had for playing the violin.

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from the trenches of WWI: ‘cootie’ (‘body louse’)

from army use on the Western Front during World War One: ‘cootie’, ‘body louse’, ‘cooty’, ‘infested with lice’, ‘coot’, ‘louse’, probably ultimately refer to the aquatic bird called ‘coot’, reputed to be lice-infested

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‘Zeppelins in a cloud’ (‘sausage and mash’)

early 20th century—‘Zeppelins in a cloud’ and variants mean ‘sausage and mash’—during World War One, the phrase was used as a manner of disregarding the fear caused by the bombing raids carried out by Zeppelin airships

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