‘chain-smoker’: meaning and origin

1885—a person who smokes continually, typically by lighting a cigarette from the stub of the last one smoked—loan translation from German ‘Kettenraucher’—originally referred to Otto von Bismarck

Read More

notes on the phrase ‘sing ’em muck’

1928 in Clara Butt: Her Life-Story, by H. W. Ponder—“Sing ’em muck! It’s all they can understand!”: advice given by Australian soprano Nellie Melba to English contralto Clara Butt, who was about to undertake a tour of Australia

Read More

‘the politics of the warm inner glow’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1981—the ideology of the Australian Labor Party’s left wing, “for whom the ultimate test of a policy is the feeling of personal virtuousness to be derived from its espousal”—Labor politician James McClelland claimed to have coined this phrase

Read More

‘better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick’

British and Irish English, 1833—denotes qualified pleasure—also: ‘to give [someone] a poke in the eye (with a — stick)’, meaning to deprecate [someone]—from ‘a poke in the eye’, denoting something undesirable

Read More

‘a Jap on Anzac Day’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1973—used of anything that is absolutely unacceptable, and of any disagreeable situation or experience—‘Jap’: derogatory shortening of ‘Japanese’—Anzac Day: commemoration of the landing of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps in the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915

Read More

‘to go ballistic’: meanings and origin

1980s—to become wildly or explosively angry; to become highly excited or enthusiastic; to intensify rapidly and especially alarmingly—refers to the failure of a guided missile’s guidance system (1966)

Read More