origin of ‘once in a blue moon’

‘Once in a blue moon’ is a development from ‘once in a moon’, meaning ‘once a month’, hence ‘occasionally’—‘blue’ is merely a meaningless fanciful intensive.

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origin of ‘to play possum’

‘to play possum’: American English, early 19th century—pretend to be dead, asleep, etc.—allusion to the opossum’s habit of feigning death when threatened

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pipe dream

pipe dream: American English, late 19th century—originally with reference to the kind of visions experienced when smoking an opium pipe

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owlhoot

Coined after ‘cock-crow’, ‘owl-hoot’ means ‘dusk’. It denotes ‘an outlaw’ in Wild West fiction, hence, generally, ‘a worthless or contemptible person’.

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to have bats in one’s belfry

Of American-English origin, ‘to have bats in one’s belfry’ is from the image of bats flying around when disturbed, like confused thoughts in a disordered mind.

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Kindertransport

Kindertransport (from German ‘Kinder’, children): operation from 1938 to 1940 to evacuate (mostly Jewish) children from Nazi-controlled areas of Europe to the UK

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hung parliament

In ‘hung parliament’, ‘hung’ means ‘in which no political party has an overall majority’ – cf. the US expression ‘hung jury’, where ‘hung’ means ‘unable to decide’.

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conundrum

The word ‘conundrum’, attested in 1596, originally meant ‘whimsy’, ‘oddity’. It perhaps originated as a parody of some Latin scholastic phrase.

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origin of ‘sneeze’

The verb ‘sneeze’ is an alteration of the obsolete verb ‘fnese’ due to misreading or misprinting it as ‘ſnese’ (= ‘snese’).

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padoodle (one-eyed car)

padoodle (USA): exclamation shouted by a person who spots a car with only one working headlight, which entitles this person to kiss or hit someone else

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