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

By Eric Partridge; Paul Beale | Go to book overview

M

M.F.U.

See: snafu.


Mabel.

See: go easy.


Mac Arthur.

See: like MacArthur.


Macready pauses

is, in theatrical circles, applied to an actor who, either on this one occasion or habitually, pauses too long after a telling speech or line or witticism: since c. 1855. William Macready (1793-1873), the great mid C19 actor, had a bad habit of pausing inordinately long in any dramatic or emphatic or unusually eloquent speech. (With thanks to the late Wilfred Gran ville.)


Macduff.

See: lead on.


McGee.

See: it ain't funny.


McGinty.

See: down went; up goes.


McGoo.

See: give us a little.


McGregor.

See: Shice.


McGuinness.

See: good night, M.


Macy's.

See: does Macy's.


mad.

See: don't get mad; I'm not mad; my pocket; say when you're; went for; you are of; you don't have to be; and:


mad as my old Aunt Hattie.

Utterly insane: US: since c. 1930. An allusion to the Brit, cliché as mad as a hatter. (A.B., 1978).


mad, married, or Methodist.

'Said of Sapper (Royal Engineers) officers. Could it be because the Sappers were the first fighting soldiers to need brains? From before WW1; possibly as early as the Peninsular War' (Sanders, 1978).


mad woman's shit.

See: all over the place.


made.

See: you have it.


made my day-that's, or it's, or you've.

That incident, ranging from flattery to sincerity, from the trivial (e.g., a small gift) to the important (a bequest, a large cheque, the unexpected visit of someone dear), has made me happy or restored my confidence: since the late 1940s. But latterly, it has often formed an ironic comment on an unexpected, esp. if unwelcome, incident (Prof. Emeritus A.C. Partridge, 1978). P.B.: in the latter nuance, in Brit, usage, often (just about) made my day, that has, for emphasis.


mademoiselle, I love you well

(rhyme: selle-well) was in late Victorian and Edwardian times-say, rather, c. 1880-1914-'verse of courtly gallantry, which, however, continued: “Pray, let me kiss your toe”/“No, no, monsieur (pron. m'seer),/My bum's too near/If you should stoop so low.” Older ladies could quote the first two lines at parties' (L.A., 1974).


madman.

See: dear sir, much wit.


Madras for health, Bengal for wealth.

George Colman's The Man of Business performed and pub'd in 1774, shows Tropick, a ship's husband back from India, and Fable, a businessman, after greeting each other, early in Act III talking thus:

FABLE: Excellent!-And his elder brother, that was placed at Madras, is he removed to Bengal yet, as he proposed?

TROP: He is, he is: but-

FABLE: That's right: Madras for health, Bengal for wealth-that's the maxim there, you know. ['There' being India.]

TROP: Very true, very true: but-.

Whence it appears that Madras for health, Bengal for wealth was a c.p. in the East India Company among the merchants and bankers dealing with the merchandise of India: c. 1740-1820.


Mafeking is (or has been) relieved.

The former is an Aus. c.p., in use among shift workers on being relieved and, vulgarly, among workmen, after defecation: C20. (B.P.) Norman Franklin, 1976, says that in 1940, he heard 'Buller, the relief of Ladysmith; cascara, the relief of Mrs Smith'; the ref. being to the Boer War and to the laxative.

The latter is a Brit, sarcastic reply to someone, 'usually a gossiping busybody who says “Have you heard the latest?”' He adds that, on 23 Oct. 1969, he heard the shortened the relief of Mafeking employed by Jimmy Jewel in an episode of TV's 'Nearest and Dearest'. This ref. to a highlight of the Boer War (1899-1902) implies That's stale news'-in the comic mode of the proverb 'Queen Anne's dead'. Cf Dutch are in Holland.


Maggie.

See: where Maggie.


Maggie's drawers.

See: give him M.


maggot.

See: fool at one end and a m.


mahogany.

See: you shock.


Mahony.

See: ring Mahony.


maid.

See: I'll give you my.


maidenheads.

See: looking for.


make a good trumpeter…

See: good trumpeter….


make-and-mends.

See: we want m.


make it easy on yourself!

'Modern, US. [UK usage would be for yourself.] Take the easy way, don't make life difficult for yourself; perhaps specifically, e.g. co-operate with the police, etc.' (Wedgewood, 1977): since c. 1960.


make like a…

See: pretend you're a….


make love, not war!

Orig. a slogan of US, it soon became one of Brit., youth: and, as such, it is ineligible. But, among true adults, it developed, in the late 1960s, into an allusive, gently mocking c.p., doomed, I'd suppose, to become ob. by 1980. Raymond A. Sokolov, 2 Oct. 1977, in a review of the first ed. of this book for the New York Times, noted the phrase's omission.


make money of that!

S, in Dialogue III, causes Miss to say, 'Well, but I was assured from a good Hand, that she lost at one Sitting, to the Tune of a hundred Guineas, make Money of that.' General sense: 'That's a lot of money'-'That isn't chicken feed'-'And that ain't hay'. Apparently late C17-18.


make no mistake!

In Act III of Leonard Grover's US comedy. Our Boarding House, prod. 1877, although not pub'd until 1940, Colonel Elevator on several occasions uses this

-200-

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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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