‘to out-Herod Herod’ | ‘to out-Zola Zola’

the phrases built on the pattern ‘to out-X X’, in which ‘X’ is a person’s name, mean to be superior to X in his or her characteristics—the prefix ‘out-’ has been used to form verbs conveying the sense of surpassing, exceeding or beating in the action described by the simple verb

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‘parting shot’ | ‘Parthian shot’

‘parting shot’ (1817); ‘Parthian shot’ (1822): a sharp, telling remark, act, gesture, etc., made in departing—‘parting shot’: literally the final shot fired at the moment of departure—‘Parthian shot’: refers to the Parthian horsemen’s habit of shooting arrows backwards while in real or pretended retreat

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‘to break a butterfly on a wheel’: meaning and origin

to use unnecessary force in destroying something fragile—alludes to a wheel used as an instrument of torture—first occurs in An Epistle from Mr. Pope, to Dr. Arbuthnot (1734), by the English poet Alexander Pope (1688-1744), who perhaps coined this phrase

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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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history of ‘piece of work’ (unpleasant person)

literal meaning, 1473: something produced or manufactured—1534: an arduous task—1810: a commotion, a fuss—1623: ‘a filthy piece of work’ is applied to a person in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens

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