‘like a red rag to a bull’: meaning and origin

‘red rag’—a piece of red cloth used to provoke an animal—hence, figuratively, a source of provocation or annoyance, something which excites violent indignation—the notion occurs in the late 16th century

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‘red-light district’: meaning and origin

USA, 1893—the part of a town or city in which prostitution and other commercial sexual activities are concentrated—originally used of Louisville, Kentucky—from the use of a red light as a sign outside a brothel

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‘Buckley’s (chance): meaning and origin

Australia, 1887—a forlorn hope, no prospect whatever—may refer to the British convict William Buckley (1780-1856), who escaped from custody in 1803 and lived for thirty-two years with Aboriginal people

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‘men in buckram’: meaning and origin

1733—denotes imaginary or non-existent people—refers to John Falstaff’s vaunting tale in the First Part of King Henry the Fourth, by William Shakespeare, in which two men in buckram suits gradually become eleven

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‘to ride shotgun’: origin and sense developments

USA—literally (1905): to travel as an armed guard next to the driver of a vehicle—in extended use (1948): to accompany, to escort, especially in ‘to ride shotgun on somebody’—figuratively (1949): to assist, to protect, especially in ‘to ride shotgun on somebody’

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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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‘to go from zero to hero’ | ‘to go from hero to zero’

USA—(1893) ‘to go from zero to hero’: to experience a sudden increase in popularity or success, especially having previously been in a position of low achievement or esteem—(1899) ‘to go from hero to zero’: to suffer a sudden decline in popularity or success

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