Military slang, introduced after the Abyssinian War, for a button in the abdomen area “gone astray from its buttonhole.” This is probably what happens to your vest-wearing uncle after a hearty Thanksgiving meal.
A California term for a church.
BASKET OF ORANGES
This phrase, which referred to a pretty woman, originated in Australia before making its way to England. “A metaphor founded on another metaphor,” author Andrew Forrester writes, “the basket of oranges being a phrase for the discovery of nuggets of gold in gold fields.”
Not something you drink out of, but a street term for “a stout, red-faced man.”
CAN’T YOU FEEL THE SHRIMP?
Cockney, from 1877, meaning “smell the sea.”
“Blushing or turning red in the face rather from the meanness of another than your own.”
CUT A FINGER
A lower-class phrase meaning “to cause a disagreeable odor.”
DAMNED GOOD SWINE UP
A term from 1880, “suspected to be of American origin,” for a loud quarrel.
A street term meaning “smart, active, adroit. One of the alliterative phrases with absolutely no meaning.”
A Lancashire term for “swearing followed by kicking.”
A street term for scolding, as delivered by a woman.
NURSE THE HOE-HANDLE
A term from agricultural American meaning “lazy.” You’re not being a lump on your couch—you’re nursing the hoe-handle!
RAKED FORE AND AFT
Desperately in love.
SPONGE IT OUT
This term, used beginning in 1883, meant “forget it.”
START A JOLLY
To lead applause. The next time you do the slow clap, tell everyone you’re starting a jolly.