‘rocking-chair job’: meaning and origin

USA—1901 as ‘rocking-chair work’—1907 as ‘rocking-chair job’—a sinecure, i.e., an office or position providing an income or other advantage but requiring little or no work

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‘the land of fruits and nuts’: meanings and origin

U.S.A, 1932—also ‘the land of nuts and fruits’—a humorous, sometimes derogatory, appellation for the U.S. state of California—refers to California’s agricultural bounties and to Californians regarded as being ‘nuts’, i.e., crazy

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‘handbags at ten paces’: meaning and origin

UK, 1978—(soccer players) a confrontation that does not lead to serious fighting—based on the cliché ‘pistols at ten paces’—the substitution of ‘pistols’ with ‘handbags’, which evokes women fighting with their handbags, expresses the histrionic character of the confrontation

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‘to talk through (the back of) one’s neck’

1890s—to use extravagant words or language not substantiated by fact; to talk nonsense—occurs in particular in stories by the British authors Ernest William Hornung (1866-1921) and Pelham Grenville Wodehouse (1881-1975)

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‘get on your bike’ (exhortation to take action)

UK—since 1981, has been associated with a speech by the Employment Secretary, Norman Tebbit, at the Conservative Party conference, in which he exhorted the unemployed to go and find work, like his father, who had “got on his bike and looked for work”

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‘999’ (British emergency telephone number)

‘999’ denotes the telephone number used to contact the emergency services in the United Kingdom. This telephone number was introduced in 1937 by Walter Womersley, who was then the Assistant Postmaster-General.

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‘barbecue stopper’: meaning and origin

Australia—a controversial current-affairs topic—the image is that such a topic is likely to interrupt a barbecue with loud debate—coined in 2001 by the Australian Prime Minister John Howard during his re-election campaign

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