‘to pile Pelion upon Ossa’: meanings and origin

1609—to add to what is already great, also to add difficulty to difficulty—Pelion and Ossa are two mountains in Thessaly—in Greek mythology, two giants, Otus and Ephialtes, tried to pile Pelion and Ossa on Olympus in order to reach the gods and overthrow them

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‘Red Sea pedestrian’: meaning and origin

UK, 1912—humorous: a Jewish person—refers to the Crossing of the Red Sea, as recounted in the Book of Exodus—coined on various occasions by different persons, independently from each other

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sense evolution of ‘rhubarb’: from theatre to nonsense

UK—‘rhubarb’ is colloquially used to denote ‘nonsense’—originated in the theatrical practice consisting for a group of actors in repeating the word ‘rhubarb’ to represent an indistinct background conversation or the noise of a crowd

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‘soft Mick’: meaning and origin

Lancashire, England, 1939—used in similative and comparative phrases such as ‘as —— as soft Mick’ and ‘more —— than soft Mick’, the noun ‘soft Mick’ (also ‘Soft Mick’) indicates a great quantity or degree

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‘chardonnay socialist’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1985—a person who espouses socialist ideals while enjoying a wealthy lifestyle—coined after the synonymous expression ‘champagne socialist’—popularised by Emerald City (1987), by the Australian playwright David Williamson

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‘a cup of tea, a Bex and a good lie down’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1965—a panacea; a source of comfort; also indicates the need for a rest to settle down—originated in ‘A Cup of Tea, a Bex and a Good Lie Down’ (1965), a satiric revue by John McKellar—‘Bex’ was a proprietary name for a type of analgesic

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‘hellzapoppin’’: meaning and origin

USA, 1896—one-word form representing a colloquial pronunciation of the phrase ‘hell’s a poppin’’ (1875)—meaning: ‘events are unfolding in a chaotic manner’; ‘a state of confusion and disarray is taking hold’—the verb ‘pop’ means ‘to suddenly break open’

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‘royal we’: meaning and origin

UK, 1821—‘we’ used in place of ‘I’ by a monarch or other person in power, also (frequently humorously) by any individual—originated as a loan translation from French ‘nous royal’, as used of Napoléon Bonaparte by Madame de Staël in her memoirs published in 1821

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‘to run like a hairy goat’: meanings and origin

Australia, 1912—of a racehorse: to perform very badly—also in extended use and in the opposite sense—from ‘hairy goat’ (1894): a racehorse which performs badly—synonym ‘hairy dog’ (1908)

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