‘green thumb’: meaning and origin

British, 1907—denotes considerable talent or ability to grow plants—in this phrase, the adjective ‘green’ refers to the colour of growing vegetation—1921: ‘green-thumbed’ (adjective)

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‘green fingers’: meaning and origin

British, 1906—denotes considerable talent or ability to grow plants—in this phrase, the adjective ‘green’ refers to the colour of growing vegetation—1914: ‘green-fingered’ (adjective)

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‘to be not so green as one is cabbage-looking’

Australia, 1865—to be less of a fool than one appears to be—this phrase plays on two uses of the adjective ‘green’: 1) denoting the colour of growing vegetation, grass, etc. 2) denoting an inexperienced or naive person

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‘meat and two veg’: meanings and early occurrences

UK—literally, 1919: a dish consisting of meat served with two varieties of vegetable, seen as typical of traditional or unimaginative British cooking—figuratively, 1951: something simple and unsophisticated, or something indicative of simple and unsophisticated tastes

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‘pumpkinification’: meanings and origin

UK, 1849—transformation into a pumpkin; extravagant or absurdly uncritical glorification—coined after Hellenistic Greek ‘ἀποκολοκύντωσις’, the title of a travesty ascribed to Seneca, according to which the deceased Roman emperor Claudius, instead of being elevated to divine status, is changed into a pumpkin

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‘(as) fit as a mallee bull’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1960—very fit and well, in robust health—the image is of a bull strengthened by his living in one of the semi-desert areas of Australia in which the principal vegetation is mallee, i.e., low-growing bushy eucalyptus

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‘in clover’: meaning and origin of this phrase

UK, 1710—in ease and luxury—refers to the use of clover as fodder, as explained by Samuel Johnson in A Dictionary of the English Language (1755): “To live in Clover, is to live luxuriously; clover being extremely delicious and fattening to cattle.”

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notes on ‘four-leaved clover’ and ‘even ash’

‘four-leaved clover’: a rare form of clover leaf having four leaflets, regarded as a lucky charm or sign of good fortune—superstition mentioned as early as 1620—sometimes associated with ‘even ash’, a rare form of ash leaf having an even number of leaflets

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‘coconut (black)’: meaning and origin

Australia, 1981—used by some Aborigines of those who are considered to have betrayed their Aboriginal identity in order to be accepted into the white Australian society—the image is that (like the coconut, dark on the outside, but white on the inside) those Aboriginal ‘betrayers’ are outwardly black, but inwardly white

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