‘to nail one’s colours to the mast’: meanings and origin

UK, 1808—to make one’s beliefs or intentions plain—from the former practice of nailing an ensign to the mast of a ship, after damage during battle resulted in the ship’s colours no longer being clearly displayed, which otherwise might have been interpreted as a signal of surrender

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‘like billy-o’: meaning and origin

UK, 1860—very much, very intensely—‘billy-o’ occurs only in this phrase—it is apparently composed of ‘Billy’, pet form of the male forename ‘William’, and the suffix ‘-o’, used to form slang and colloquial nouns, adjectives and interjections

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‘Asbomania’: meaning and origin

UK, 2005—the perceived indiscriminate and excessive use by the authorities of anti-social behaviour orders—apparently coined by Álvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights—‘Asbo’: acronym from the initial letters of ‘anti-social behaviour order’

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‘spit and sawdust’: meaning and origin

UK, 1928—of a public-house: very basic and lacking in comforts—refers to the former practice of covering the floor of a public-house with sawdust into which customers spat

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