meaning and origin of ‘to turn up one’s toes’

The phrase ‘to turn up one’s toes’, meaning ‘to die’, might have originated in the Irish-English phrase ‘to turn up one’s toes to the roots of the daisies’, first found in the passive form ‘with one’s toes turned up to the roots of the daisies’, meaning ‘lying dead’.

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original meaning of ‘to see the elephant’

U.S.—‘to see the elephant’: to see life, the world or the sights, as of a large city, to gain knowledge by experience. But in 1842, the original meaning of ‘to see the elephant’ was ‘to get sick and tired of something’.

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origin of ‘fat cat’ (wealthy and powerful person)

Of American-English origin, the slang term fat cat denotes a wealthy, influential person, especially one who is a heavy contributor to a political party or campaign. The earliest occurrence that I have found is from an article published in The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland) of 1 November 1925.

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origin of ‘red tape’ (obstructive official rules)

The noun red tape, meaning excessive bureaucracy or adherence to official rules and formalities, refers to the use of woven red tape to tie up bundles of legal documents and official papers; the literal meaning is first recorded in 1658, the figurative meaning in 1736.

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British origin of Gotham, nickname for New York City

Many centuries before becoming a nickname for New York City and the name of a fictional city associated with the Batman stories, Gotham was used in Britain as the name of a (probably fictional) village proverbial for the folly of its inhabitants.

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The literal meaning of ‘cappuccino’ is ‘Capuchin’.

USA, 1948—espresso coffee mixed with steamed milk—borrowed from Italian ‘cappuccino’, literally ‘Capuchin’, because the colour of this type of coffee resembles that of a Capuchin’s habit—cf. French ‘capucin’ (= ‘Capuchin’), a name for the hare, from the colour of the animal’s fur

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origin of ‘baloney’

‘baloney’ or ‘boloney’: ‘humbug’ and ‘nonsense’—USA, 1922—American-English alteration of ‘bologna (sausage)’, a large smoked sausage made of seasoned mixed meats, from the name of Bologna, a city in northern Italy, where these sausages were first made

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‘See you later, alligator’ originated in U.S. teenagers’ slang.

    The colloquial see you later, alligator, which originated in American English, is a catchphrase used on parting. The expected response is in, or after, a while, crocodile. The earliest instance that I have found is from Teenagers’ Slang Expressions Are Explained by Columnists, by “Jackie and Jane, Star-Bulletin Teen Columnists”, published in the […]

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European precursors of the American ‘Indian summer’

The name ‘Indian summer’ (late 18th century) reflected the fact that to the Europeans living in the New World, this was a newly-discovered local phenomenon. But similar phenomena were already known in the Old World by various names.

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