hot dog

  Greenwich Village Fair – “Hot Dogs” – June 1917 photograph: Library of Congress     The term hot dog denotes a sausage, especially a frankfurter, served hot in a long roll split lengthways. In US slang, the noun dog has been used to denote a sausage since the late 19th century. This usage is first recorded […]

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thinking cap

  The term thinking cap denotes an imaginary cap humorously said to be worn in order to facilitate thinking. The earliest instance that I have found is from the Western Carolinian (Salisbury, North Carolina) of 16th October 1821: We advise the editor to put his thinking-cap on, before he hazards another such assertion. The term also […]

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turducken – rôti sans pareil (unequalled roast)

  New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme with his wife and partner, K. “Chef is the food, but I am the taster,” she says. from the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, 7th March 1984     A blend of turkey, duck and chicken, the noun turducken designates a poultry dish consisting of a boned chicken inside a […]

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“the cat’s whiskers”, and all that jazz

  Eastern Vaudeville Bans Unseemly Slang A general order has been sent out from the Keith office to all Keith, Moss and Proctor vaudeville houses, instructing resident managers to hereafter bar the use by artists of the current slang phrases, “That’s the Cat’s Meow,” “Cat’s Pajamas,” “Hot Dog,” “Hot Cat,” etc. This means the phrases […]

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to knock into a cocked hat

    In the USA, cocked hat denoted a game similar to ninepins, except that only three pins were set up, in triangular position. It took its name from cocked hat in the sense of a hat with the brim permanently turned up (i.e. cocked), especially the three-cornered hat of this shape worn at the end […]

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a chip on one’s shoulder

    The phrase a chip on one’s shoulder means a challenging or belligerent attitude. In A Concise Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1993), B. A. Phythian explains: There is an unusual degree of unanimity about the provenance of have a chip on one’s shoulder (bear a grudge; behave anti-socially). Unlikely as it may seem, […]

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keep your shirt on

Keep your shirt on In every girl’s way of living there are moments when she forgets the formality of dressing up and returns to the well-seasoned, any season look of a shirt. Cooler than a sweater and without the interruption of frills. Elizabeth Dickson earmarks the shirt born to the manner of classical elegance. advertisement […]

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dressed to the nines

  We’ll show her dressed to the nines, posing with a tribe of gypsies in the Pyrenees illustration by Steven Spurrier for The Vanishing Star. A Comedy of Love and Strategy in Hollywood, by Reita Weiman, published in Britannia and Eve (London) of December 1932     The phrase dressed to the nines means dressed […]

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to have a frog in one’s throat

  FROG IN YOUR THROAT. 7½d. An instantaneous remedy for “Laryngeal” and “Bronchial Inflammation,” “Tickling,” “Clergymens’ [sic] Sore Throat,” “Smokers’ Sore Throat,” Soreness resulting from dryness of the throat and air passages, or from “clearing the throat.” They afford greater relief than anything hitherto known. Especially useful to Singers, Speakers, Readers, Actors, Teachers, and all […]

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to look like something the cat has brought in

  Of American-English origin, the phrase to look, or to feel, like something the cat has brought in means to look, or to feel, exhausted or bedraggled. The earliest instances of the form, if not of the phrase, that I have found are in, and as the title of, a story published in The Perrysburg Journal (Perrysburg, Ohio) of 2nd February 1877 […]

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