‘loony bin’: meaning and origin

1913 and 1921 in stories by English author P. G. Wodehouse—a facetious appellation for a home or hospital for people with mental illnesses—‘loony’: shortened form of ‘lunatic’

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‘Siberian Express’: meaning and origin

American English—a surge of extremely cold air which causes rapid falls in temperature and severe wintry weather in central and eastern areas of the United States and Canada—after ‘Trans-Siberian Express’, the name of a railway running from Moscow to Vladivostok on the Sea of Japan

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‘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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‘cold turkey’ (as used of a drug addict)

USA, 1917—a method of treating a drug addict by sudden and complete withdrawal of the drug, instead of by a gradual process—alludes to the goose pimples, resembling the skin of a cold turkey, that a person experiences as a side effect of the treatment

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‘to beat the Dutch’: meaning and origin

USA, 1775—to do or say something remarkable or startling—the precise underlying notion in the choice of ‘Dutch’ is not clear—‘Dutch’ occurs in a number of derogatory or derisive English phrases

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‘a penny soul never came to twopence’

UK, 1844—extreme meanness never made anyone better off—compare Book of Proverbs, 11:24: “There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.”

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