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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to lose one’s marbles

    The noun marble, denoting a hard crystalline metamorphic rock resulting from the recrystallization of a limestone, is from Anglo-Norman forms such as marbre and marbelle, and from Old-French forms such as marbre, maubre and mabre, from classical Latin marmor. This Latin noun is from ancient Greek μάρμαρος (= mármaros), shining stone, marble, of […]

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tabloid (2)

    TABLOID DRAMA. SHAKESPEARE “BOILED DOWN” FOR THE MUSIC HALLS. Mr. Cecil Raleigh is in favour of Shakespeare being “boiled down” for the music-hall stage. It was after Mr. George Fuller Golden’s lecture on the influence of theatres upon the music-halls, to the members of the O.P. Club at the Criterion Restaurant, last night, […]

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smoke and mirrors

  Politicians usually work with blue smoke and mirrors. What appears to be real is mostly an illusion, and what is unlikely turns out to be real. But sometimes, the blue smoke and mirrors don’t work. When you can’t produce a budget, you can’t call a news conference and pretend you did. from The News […]

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fifth column

    The term fifth column, which translates Spanish quinta columna, denotes the enemy’s supporters in one’s own country, or a body of one’s supporters in an attacked or occupied foreign country, hence, more generally, any group of hostile or subversive infiltrators, any enemy in one’s midst. The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was the conflict […]

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to toilet-paper

    Decorating, not vandalizing Organized toilet-papering: Tim Koss, a senior at Green Bay East High School, gets into the spirit of homecoming by decorating the school grounds with toilet paper Thursday night. East High encourages students to toilet-paper the school instead of homes. from Green Bay Press-Gazette (Green Bay, Wisconsin) of 29th September 1995 […]

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Simon says

    Of American-English origin, Simon says denotes a children’s game in which players must obey the leader’s instructions only if they are prefaced with the words Simon says; it also denotes the command itself. The name Simon was probably chosen for alliterative effect (Simon says). The earliest instance that I have found is the […]

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serendipity

    The noun serendipity denotes the faculty of making by accident discoveries that are both fortunate and unexpected. (It has been borrowed into Spanish as serendipia, into Italian as serendipità, and into French as sérendipité.) It was coined by the English writer and politician Horace Walpole (1717-97). In a letter that he wrote to his friend Horace Mann […]

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to toe the line

    The phrase to toe the line means to accept the authority, policies or principles of a particular group, especially unwillingly. Its literal sense is to stand or crouch with the toes touching the line, especially at the start of a race or fight. The current meaning is an extension of a figurative usage, […]

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not to give a tinker’s damn

  The phrase not to give, care or be worth a tinker¹’s curse, cuss² or damn (or elliptically a tinker’s) is an intensification of not to give, care or be worth a curse, cuss or damn, with reference to the bad language reputedly used by tinkers. The low repute in which tinkers were held is also […]

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