‘even a stopped clock is right twice a day’

UK, 1711—means that anyone can be right occasionally, if only by chance—often used specifically to suggest that one holding a fixed belief regardless of changing circumstances will occasionally, if rarely, be correct

Read More

‘T.W.O.C’: meaning and sociological background

UK, 1972—the offence of taking a car without the owner’s consent, especially for the purpose of joyriding, which was a social phenomenon prevalent in north-eastern England—acronym for ‘taking without owner’s consent’

Read More

history of ‘piece of work’ (unpleasant person)

literal meaning, 1473: something produced or manufactured—1534: an arduous task—1810: a commotion, a fuss—1623: ‘a filthy piece of work’ is applied to a person in Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens

Read More

‘worm’s-eye view’: meaning and origin

USA, 1898—a view as seen from below or from a humble position—refers to a view taken as from the standpoint of a worm, i.e. from ground-level—coined after ‘bird’s-eye view’ (1782), denoting a view of a landscape from above, such as is presented to the eye of a bird

Read More

‘no names, no pack drill’: meaning and origin

UK, 1890—used to indicate that the person or persons guilty of a misdemeanour will not be named, in order to spare them recrimination—‘pack drill’: a military punishment involving a lengthy period of marching up and down carrying full equipment

Read More

‘to go to Specsavers’: meaning and origin

UK and Ireland—used of someone who makes a mistake because of poor eyesight—refers to the British optical retail chain Specsavers Optical Group Ltd, in particular to its advertising slogan, ‘should’ve gone to Specsavers’

Read More