‘pipsqueak’: meanings and origin

a person or thing that is insignificant or contemptible—1910—originally (1900): a type of small high-velocity shell, with reference to the high-pitched sound of its discharge and flight

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‘in full fig’: meaning and origin

smartly dressed—from the verb ‘fig out/up’, meaning ‘to smarten up’—this verb is probably an alteration of the verb ‘feague’, of uncertain origin, meaning ‘to make (a horse) lively’

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‘Mexican overdrive’: meaning and origin

the practice of coasting downhill in a motor vehicle, with the engine disengaged—USA, 1949, lorry-drivers’ slang—one of the phrases in which ‘Mexican’ denotes basic devices or processes compared unfavourably with more advanced equivalents

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‘a walk in the park’: meaning and origin

(the type of) something easy, effortless or pleasant—USA, 1937—originally denoted, in golf caddies’ slang, a nine-hole round, with some reference to the literal sense of the phrase

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‘Brylcreem Boy’: meanings and origin

UK, 1941—a fighter pilot in the Royal Air Force; also used by the military land forces of any member of the R.A.F.—originally referred to WWII advertisements for Brylcreem hair cream, featuring a fighter pilot

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‘blood wagon’: meaning and origin

UK—an ambulance (i.e., a vehicle designed to carry sick or injured people)—originally (Royal Air Force slang, 1921): a specially equipped airplane for carrying sick or injured people

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‘grass widow’: meanings and origin

a married woman living apart from her husband (18th century)—originally (16th century) an unmarried woman who has borne an illegitimate child—alludes to a bed of grass as a typical place for illicit sexual intercourse

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‘passion-killer’: meanings and origin

UK—anything which discourages or inhibits sexual activity—originally (1943, British military slang): the sturdy, practical and unattractive underwear issued to female service personnel

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