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sheeple

sheeple

  The Old Hokum Bucket (1949), by Ernest Rogers photograph: Etsy       MEANING   people likened to sheep in being docile, foolish, or impressionable     ORIGIN   A blend of sheep and people, sheeple seems to have first been used by W. R. Anderson in his column Round About Radio, in The […]

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soap opera

soap opera

  THE DOLEFUL COMPLICATIONS OF SOAP OPERAS are almost beyond explanation. Above is ‘Woman In White.’ Karen Adams (right) divorced Dr. Kirk Harding (left) because he had gotten her sister-in-law, Janet (on death-bed above), with illegitimate child. from the American magazine Life of 27th April 1942       MEANING   a television or radio drama […]

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paparazzi

paparazzi

  Walter Santesso (center) as Paparazzo in La Dolce Vita photograph: Cine Bazar       The common noun paparazzo and its plural form paparazzi were first used in English in the American magazine Time of 14th April 1961: Paparazzi on the Prowl ROMAN PHOTOGRAPHERS BLOCKADING SORAYA’S CAR Buzzing, hovering, darting, stinging. On Rome’s Via […]

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‘pleb’

‘pleb’

  MEANING   informal and derogatory: an ordinary person, especially one from the lower social classes     ORIGIN   The noun pleb, which appeared in the late 18th century, is a shortened form of plebeian. The plural plebs, meaning the common people, dates back to the late 16th century. It is from Latin plebs/plebis, […]

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once in a blue moon

once in a blue moon

      Unrelated to the phrase once in a blue moon, the astronomical term blue moon first appeared in the USA in August 1937: Maine Farmers’ Almanac used it to denote the third full moon in a season which exceptionally contains four full moons (as defined by the mean sun, each season normally contains three full […]

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to cut to the chase

to cut to the chase

  Keystone Cops photograph: Shades of gray       MEANING   Originally American, the phrase to cut to the chase means to come to the point.     ORIGIN   In cinematography, to cut a film is to make it into a coherent whole by removing parts or placing them in a different order. To […]

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fracas

fracas

  Nell Gwyn as Cupid (circa 1672) engraving by Richard Thomson of a painting by Peter Cross     On Tuesday 10th March 2015, Jeremy Clarkson, the presenter of the popular TV show Top Gear, was suspended following what the BBC said was “a fracas” with a producer (in fact, Clarkson punched him).   A […]

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slapstick

slapstick

    A slapstick consists of two flat pieces of wood joined together at one end, used to produce a loud slapping noise.   Although the device is much older, the word slapstick itself, originally American English, only dates from the late 19th century. The double-slatted paddle was specially used in pantomime and ‘low’ comedy to […]

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white feather

white feather

  illustration for The White Feather. A Sketch of English Recruiting   Inglorious Upshot That evening as he was walking from the station on his way home, three smartly-dressed girls, approaching, barred the pavement. He stopped. “How young he is, the poor darling!” murmured fondly the central maiden, and, suddenly producing a large white feather, […]

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