to toilet-paper

    Decorating, not vandalizing Organized toilet-papering: Tim Koss, a senior at Green Bay East High School, gets into the spirit of homecoming by decorating the school grounds with toilet paper Thursday night. East High encourages students to toilet-paper the school instead of homes. from Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) of 29th September 1995 […]

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doolally

Four’s a Crowd.—A merry, irresponsible farce that dips frequently into pure crazy comedy. For this they have chosen to give Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland a “break” from their usual story book hero and heroine types. These two lovely young people do very well, but I cannot think that crazy comedy suits them best. […]

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hot dog

  Greenwich Village Fair – “Hot Dogs” – June 1917 photograph: Library of Congress     The term hot dog denotes a sausage, especially a frankfurter, served hot in a long roll split lengthways. In US slang, the noun dog has been used to denote a sausage since the late 19th century. This usage is first recorded […]

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money for old rope

  Money for Old Rope SACKING, RAGS, OLD CAR BATTERIES SCRAP & SALVAGE Our Lorry Will Collect It Cash Waiting Grantham Salvage Co. INNER STREET. Phone 1332 advertisement published in The Grantham Journal (Lincolnshire) on 15th July 1949     The phrase money for old rope has various meanings: a profitable return for little or no trouble; a very easy job; a person […]

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Our lunatic contributor

  Ernest Weekley circa 1935     In the chapter Our lunatic contributor of Words and names (1933), the British philologist Ernest Weekley (1865-1954) wrote: The correspondence columns of our middlebrow weeklies and of our two Sunday papers are the happy hunting-ground of the amateur etymologist. A few years ago he published the discovery that ‘nap,’ ‘a short sleep,’ […]

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human bean

  The term human bean is a humorous alteration or mispronunciation of human being, frequently used as part of an extended pun relating to beans. It is first recorded in Punch, or The London Charivari (1842): This little wretch is exciting the most intense interest, (Faugh!) and we have bribed the authorities in all directions to obtain information regarding him. […]

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caviar to the general

  The letter written to his family by the French resistant Yves Daoudal (1891-1944) on 5th April 1944, before he was shot. A passage has been “caviardé”, blue-pencilled. (Photograph: Le Mont-Valérien)     The phrase caviar to the general is used to denote a good thing unappreciated by the ignorant (here, the general refers to the multitude). It is from The Tragicall Historie […]

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to frog-march

DEATH FROM THE “FROG’S MARCH.” EAST END. from The Illustrated Police News (London) of Saturday 6th April 1889 This newspaper explained: ALLEGED DEATH FROM THE “FROG’S MARCH.” On Tuesday Dr. Macdonald, the coroner for North-east Middlesex, held an inquest at the Shoreditch Town Hall on the body of Samuel Mahoney, a labourer, aged twenty-six, of […]

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Harriet Lane – Fanny Adams

  Lamentation of Henry Wainwright, For the Murder and Mutilation of Harriet Lane (1875)     MEANING   The Northern Daily Mail and South Durham Herald (Northumberland) of 14th July 1894 published an article titled Naval slang: How Jack re-christens things, which contains the following: The preserved meat served out to him is known as “Fanny Adams” or “Harriet Lane.” But the term Harriet Lane was also […]

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