‘mare nostrum’: meanings and origin

classical Latin ‘mare nostrum’, literally ‘our sea’: one of the names given by the Romans to the Mediterranean Sea—USA, 1824: any sea or other stretch of water belonging to, or under the control of, a nation

Read More

‘parlour socialist’ | ‘parlour socialism’

UK and USA, late 19th century—‘parlour socialist’: a middle- or upper-class person claiming to be committed to the cause of socialism but not actually involved in the achievement of that cause—‘parlour socialism’: the claimed commitment of a middle- or upper-class person to the cause of socialism without actual involvement in the achievement of that cause

Read More

‘parlour’ (attributive modifier): ‘parlour patriot’

‘parlour patriot’ (1797)—the earliest of the phrases in which ‘parlour’ is a depreciative attributive modifier used of a person claiming to be committed to a cause but not actually involved in the achievement of that cause—‘parlour’ is also used of the claimed commitment to a cause without actual involvement in the achievement of that cause

Read More

‘wetback’ and its sardonic variant ‘dryback’

USA, 1920: ‘wetback’: an illegal immigrant who crossed the Rio Grande from Mexico to the USA—by extension: any illegal immigrant who entered a foreign country by swimming—Mexico and USA, 1994: ‘espaldas secas’, i.e., ‘dry backs’: the U.S. citizens working in Mexico as a result of the North American Free Trade Agreement

Read More

‘Astroturf’: meanings and origin

USA—1966: an artificial grass surface used for sports fields—‘Astro-’: from the first use of Astroturf in the Astrodome stadium at Houston, Texas—1972, with humorous allusion to ‘grassroots’: an artificial version of a grassroots campaign

Read More

meaning and origin of the British noun ‘fly-tipping’

1947—the unauthorised dumping of waste, especially while in the process of transporting it—‘fly’ refers to ‘on the fly’, meaning ‘while in motion or progress’—‘tipping’ is the gerund of the verb ‘tip’, in the sense ‘to dump’

Read More

‘even a stopped clock is right twice a day’

UK, 1711—means that anyone can be right occasionally, if only by chance—often used specifically to suggest that one holding a fixed belief regardless of changing circumstances will occasionally, if rarely, be correct

Read More