over the top

‘Over the top’, which means ‘excessive’, originated as a WWI expression meaning ‘over the parapet of a trench and into battle’.

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toot sweet

    The adverb toot sweet means straight away, immediately. Humorously after the English words toot and sweet, it represents an anglicised pronunciation of the synonymous French adverb tout de suite. Before the First World War, it was only used in representations of French speech. For example, an article titled Galloglossia, published in Sharpe’s London Magazine […]

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old chestnut – marronnier

    photograph: Alba Trees     The term old chestnut denotes a joke, story or subject that has become tedious and uninteresting through constant repetition. Here, the adjective old is simply an intensifier of the noun. The figurative use of chestnut originated in American-English theatrical slang. Diary of a Daly Débutante: being passages from the […]

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cold call

            FREE! For the Salesman who wants to add at least $50,000 to his income every year           “Cold Call Selling”                     the great new approach that turns                   […]

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deadline

  the prison-pen at Millen This pen was built of large logs driven in the ground, with sentry posts on the top, at short intervals. No shelter whatsoever was afforded the prisoners, and they were compelled to burrow in the earth, to avoid the scorching sun or the biting frost, for their captors robbed them […]

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to eat humble pie

  A puzzle published in The Hibernian Magazine, or, Compendium of Entertaining Knowledge (Dublin, Ireland) in 1774 punned on the humble of humble pie, which may indicate that the latter term was already used figuratively at that time. The following is from the October issue:                     […]

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soccer

  This important match was played on Saturday, November 30, on the ground of the West of Scotland Cricket Club, at Partick, near Glasgow, and was the first international match played in Scotland according to the Association rules. Four matches had been previously played in London between London Scotchmen and Englishmen. (The illustration, from Sketches […]

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Pollyanna

  May your Christmas be                                                             A Pollyanna Christmas A day of gladness and good cheer, and if you have in mind to send a gift […]

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MAMIL

  photograph from When exercise is dangerous: Endurance races risky for group sometimes called ‘middle-aged men in Lycra’ – the Chicago Tribune (Chicago, Illinois) – 17th July 2013     The word MAMIL is an acronym from the initial letters of middle-aged man in Lycra, probably punningly after mammal. Humorous and somewhat depreciative, it denotes a middle-aged […]

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hot mess

  This advertisement for the second season (2014) of comedienne Amy Schumer’s sketch show, Inside Amy Schumer, highlighted both the “hot” and “mess” sides of her personality — photograph: Jamey Welch Creative   The primary meanings of the noun mess are a serving of food, a course, a meal, a prepared dish of a specified […]

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