A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day

By Paul Beale; Eric Partridge | Go to book overview

O

O.B.

See: same O.B.


O.B.E.

See: time for your.


O be joyful.

See: I'll make you sing.


O begga me! or O Bergami!

is the way Ware presents these variants, but what he should, I think, have written was O Bergami! and its derivative oh, beggar me!, with beggar for bugger, naturally. Ware classifies it as 'London people's'-i.e., proletarian-and dates it at 1820; he adds: 'Still used in the streets as intimating that the person addressed is a liar, or worse. From one Bergami-a lying witness at the trial of Queen Caroline-whose denial of everything brought about this phrase, with his eternal “non mi ricordo” [I don't remember].' At non me in his very valuable book, Ware notes that the non mi of the It. non mi ricordo became, c. 1820-30, the London proletariat's synonym for a lie and was used thus: 'That's a non me for one'-'That's a lie, to start with'.


O.K.

See: okay; you're O.K.


oak.

See: one that lives; within.


oak chest.

See: on second.


oakum boy.

See: ever since.


oar.

See: perched.


oath.

See: my bloody; my oath.


object of the exercise.

See: that is the o.


oboe.

See: play that.


observed.

See: hist!


obsolete.

See: if it works.


obvious.

See: for obvious reasons; glimpses.


och man, you're daft!

'(followed by a laugh “like a tinkling bell, rippling up the scale”)-Molly Weir as Tattie MacKintosh in ITMA' (VIBS). See also TOMMY HANDLEY.


odd-come-shortlies.

See: one of these o.


odds.

See: what's the o.


of all the dumb tricks!

is described by Berrey as an 'interjection of personal displeasure': US: since c. 1920 and prob. earlier. The corresponding Brit, exclam. would be 'Of all the bloody stupid things to do, that is the stupidest!'-which, however, doesn't qualify as a c.p. A.B., 1978, notes that the US often substitutes stunts for tricks.


off all the nerve!; what a nerve!; you've got a nerve!; your nerve!; I like your nerve!;

also of all the gall! All were, orig., US; but, whereas the last has always been solely US, the others became, c. 1918, also Brit. As Americanisms, they are impossible to date with any accuracy; I'd hazard 'since the 1890s'. J.W.C. notes, 1977, that of all the nerve is now 'very rare in US'.


off.

See: come off; get them; got it off; I'll let you; little less; my word, if you're; and:


off again, on again, Finnegan

is a US c.p., deriving from an old song and has come to mean 'intermittent' or 'capricious' or 'fickle': late C19-20. But at first it was a 'railroad expression as old as 1890 and referring to minor train wrecks: off the track and then back on the track. Finnegan has no significance, I believe, except that it makes a good rhyme' (Fain, 1978). J.W.C., 1977, had remarked that it is 'applied to someone dashing in and out. Common [c. 1911-16, if not earlier, but] now seldom heard'.

P.B.: I have heard the more elab. on again, off again, on again, Finnegan, and am reminded of the children's repetition song, one verse of which goes:

There was an old man called Michael Finnegan,
He grew whiskers on his chinnegan,
The wind came out and blew them in again.
Poor old Michael Finnegan! Begin again!
[and so on.]


off and on!

See: off yer and on yer!


off like a bride's nightie.

(Departing) promptly; speedily: Aus.: since c. 1960, Wilkes, Dict. Aus. Coll., records it as being in print in 1969-a book by Christopher Bray. Cf up and down like…Nightie is, of course, domestic coll. for 'nightgown'.


off (or it's off) the record.

See: record.


off to Durban!

'A music-hall gag for any person going on a gallivanting holiday. Since c. 1920' (Prof. A.C. Partridge, 1968): S. African.


off with his head: so much for Buckingham!

This was perpetrated by Colley Cibber in his 'improvement' of Shakespeare's Richard III, where the simple off with his head had occurred (1592-93): and, however long Cibber's elab. lasted, the c.p. has, in C20, usu. existed in the shorter form. (Enlargement of a note from Mr P. Daniel, 1978.) P.B.: in C20, surely as likely to derive from the awful threat off with her head, in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.


off yer and on yer!

-sometimes shortened to off and on!, and itself elliptical for off yer (or your) fanny and on yer (or your) feet! 'The limited use of the shortened phrase-i.e., off and on!-by Marines was as a command by the “non-com” to “turn-out”-or to resume activity after a rest period even though every individual was already standing' (Col. Moe, 1975). The two longer phrases were presumably current in both the navy and the army; and the longest passed into some gen. currency: late C19-20.


offence.

See: no offence.


officer(s).

See: fall out, the; gangway; midshipmen.


officer, call a cop!

See TAD DORGAN.


officers and gentlemen

has, during WW2 and National Service (ended 1962) and decreasingly since, been used as a c.p.


officers and their ladies, NCOs and their wives, privates and their women (folk)

'has, with many variants, been in existence since heaven knows when. I see, from yesterday's Daily Telegraph, 6 Dec., that, years ago, there were “men of the Merchant Navy, officers of the Royal Navy, and gentlemen of the P.&O.” [the Peninsular & Orient Shipping Line]' (anon., 1978). Cf:


officers have abdomens, sar'n't majors have stomachs and other ranks have bellies.

-228-

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A Dictionary of Catch Phrases: British and American, from the Sixteenth Century to the Present Day
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition ix
  • Introduction to the First Edition x
  • Modifications of the Original Introduction xii
  • Acknowledgments to the First Edition xiv
  • Preface to the Second Edition xvi
  • Acknowledgments to the Second Edition xix
  • Abbreviations xxi
  • A 1
  • B 25
  • C 42
  • D 60
  • E 79
  • F 85
  • G 96
  • H 114
  • I 136
  • J 178
  • K 181
  • L 186
  • M 200
  • N 212
  • O 228
  • P 240
  • Q 251
  • R 253
  • S 261
  • T 289
  • U 323
  • V 326
  • W 328
  • X 360
  • Y 361
  • Z 384
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