‘off one’s trolley’: meanings and origin

USA, 1888—deranged, irrational (also, in early use, drunk)—based on the image of a trolley-wheel coming off its trolley-wire—‘trolley’, also ‘trolley-wheel’: a pulley at the end of a pole, for transmitting electric current from an overhead wire to the motor of a trolley-car

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‘iron maiden’: meaning and origin

1757, as a loan translation of German ‘Eiserne Jungfer’ (German text published in 1740)—1837, as a loan translation of German ‘Eiserne Jungfrau’—an instrument of torture, supposedly used during the Middle Ages, consisting of an upright coffin-shaped box lined with iron spikes, into which the victim is shut

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‘elbow grease’ | ‘huile de coude’

The humorous expression ‘elbow grease’ (1639) denotes vigorous physical labour, especially hard rubbing. The corresponding French expression is ‘huile de coude’ (1761), literally ‘elbow oil’.

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‘Astroturf’: meanings and origin

USA—1966: an artificial grass surface used for sports fields—‘Astro-’: from the first use of Astroturf in the Astrodome stadium at Houston, Texas—1972, with humorous allusion to ‘grassroots’: an artificial version of a grassroots campaign

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‘kangaroo care’: meaning and origin

USA, 1990—a method of caring for a premature newborn in which a parent holds the infant on their chest in skin-to-skin contact—from the fact that kangaroos give birth to still-developing foetuses, then nurse them in their pouches

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