‘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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‘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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‘butterfingered’ | ‘butterfingers’

‘butterfingered’, adjective, 1615: having a tendency to let things fall or slip from one’s hands—also (English, regional) unable or unwilling to handle hot items with one’s bare hands—‘butterfingers’, noun, 1835: a butterfingered person, a person with a tendency to let things fall or slip from his or her hands

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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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‘Jenny Darby’ (policeman)

UK, 1830—‘Jenny Darby’, ‘Johnny Darm’, and variants, were originally opprobrious names for any member of the new Metropolitan Police introduced in 1829 by Robert Peel—alterations of ‘gendarme’, with full or partial folk-etymological remodelling variously after the female forename ‘Jenny’, the male forename ‘Johnny’, and the surname ‘Darby’

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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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