‘a safe pair of hands’: meanings and origin

UK, 1921—someone who is capable, reliable or trustworthy in the management of a situation—1854: originated in cricket, with reference to skill and reliability in catching a ball—later applied to rugby players (1894) and to goalkeepers in soccer (1899)

Read More

a British phrase: ‘to go like a bomb’

from the image of a speeding explosive projectile—primary meaning (of a motorcar, an aircraft, a motorcycle, an animal, a person): to move very fast—later (also ‘to go down like a bomb’ and ‘to go down a bomb’): to be very successful or popular

Read More

‘to thank one’s lucky stars’: meaning and origin

to be grateful for one’s good fortune—18th century—from the notion that a planet, star or zodiacal constellation influences events and human affairs—this notion had given rise in the 16th century to the phrase ‘to thank (or to curse) one’s stars’

Read More

‘Hooray Henry’: meaning and origin

a lively but ineffectual young upper-class man—UK, 1959—apparently coined in the 1950s by the British jazz manager James Godbolt after ‘Hoorah Henry’, coined in 1936 by the U.S. author Alfred Damon Runyon

Read More

‘Barney’s bull’: meanings and early occurrences

Australia, 1834—used in various phrases, in particular as a type of someone or something in a very bad state or condition—also in the phrase ‘all behind like Barney’s bull’, meaning ‘very delayed’ or ‘backward’—origin unknown

Read More

‘Absurdistan’: meanings and origin

a country characterised by absurdity—originally used of Czechoslovakia—the suffix ‘-istan’ (in country names such as ‘Pakistan’) is used as the second element in satirical names denoting, in particular, ‘a country characterised by [the first element]’

Read More

‘bullycide’: meaning and origin

suicide committed by a person, especially a child or young adult, as a result of being bullied—blend of the nouns ‘bully’ and ‘suicide’—coined since 2001 on separate occasions by various persons, independently from one another

Read More