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Alibi Ike See EVASIVENESS.
Annie Oakley A free ticket to a performance; a meal ticket. Annie Oakley (1860-1926) was the famous trick-shot artist who traveled with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Her reputed ability to throw a playing card into the air and shoot it full of holes before it fell to the ground supposedly explains how an Annie Oakley came to mean a free pass or meal ticket. A playing card riddled with bullet holes resembles a perforated ticket or punched meal ticket. The meal ticket use of the word is obsolete, and the free pass meaning is now rarely heard, although both were popular earlier in the 20th century.
A newspaper circulation man gave him two “Annie Oakleys” to a boxing match. (Life, June 17, 1946)
Baron Münchhausen See MENDACITY.
blimp See POMPOSITY.
blurb See COMMENDATION.
craps A game of chance using dice. This American term, which dates from 1843, is thought by some to be a French variant of the 18th-century English slang term crabs ‘the lowest throw at hazard [a dice game], two aces.’ Other less scholarly sources maintain that craps is short for Johnny Crapaud, the nickname given to the Creole Bernard Marigny, who is said to have first introduced dice-playing to the largely French city of New Orleans about 1800.
Dick Turpin See CRIMINALITY.
dunce See IGNORANCE.
Goody Two Shoes See PRUDISHNESS.
Grub Street See LETTERS.
Jack Ketch An appellation for a hangman or executioner. Jack Ketch is said to be the name of the notorious English hangman in the 17th century who barbarously executed William Lord Russell, Duke of Monmouth, and other political offenders. Another conjecture is that this name derived from “Richard Jaquette,” Lord of the Manor of Tyburn, where executions were performed until 1783. Another suggestion is that Jack is a common name and Ketch plays on the verb “catch.”
He is then a kind of jack-catch, an executioner-general. (John Wesley, Works, 1755)
Jim Crow See RACISM.
John Hancock A person’s signature or autograph, especially on legal documents; also John Henry. The allusion is to John Hancock’s bold, legible signature, the first on the Declaration of Independence. The variation John Henry was originally a cowboy term. Both expressions are American in origin as well as in use. Although John Hancock as a synonym for signature dates only from the early part of this century, a reference to the bold style of his hand was made as early as 1846.
After he got through filling in the blank spaces with his John Hancock, he didn’t have a window to hoist or a fence to lean on. (Ade, People you Know, 1903)
little Lord Fauntleroy See INEXPERIENCE.
malapropism See LANGUAGE.
maverick See INDEPENDENCE.
Meddlesome Matty See MEDDLESOMENESS.
Molotov cocktail A weapon consisting of a bottle containing a combustible liquid and a wick that is lit before the device is thrown. These makeshift fire bombs, named for V. M. Molotov, the wartime foreign minister of Russia, were used by Russian civilians against the invading Nazi stormtroopers in 1941. This phrase has been in common use since World War II.
Stationary tanks can be disabled by dropping grenades or Molotov cocktails through the ventilating openings. (T. Gorman, Modern Weapons of War, 1942)
Peck’s bad boy See MISCHIEF.
peeping Tom See SEXUAL ORIENTATION.
Pollyanna See IDEALISM.
pooh bah See POMPOSITY.
Simon Legree See DOMINATION.
soapy Sam See EXHORTATION.
son of Belial See EVIL.
son of thunder See EXHORTATION.
Uncle Tom See SUBMISSIVENESS.