pass the buck/passing the buck - delegate or avoid responsibility by passing a problem or blame to another person - this is commonly thought to derive from the practice and terminology of American poker players of the nineteenth century, who would supposedly pass a piece of buckshot or a buckhorn knife from player to player to signify whose responsibility it was to deal the cards or to be responsible for the pot or bank. The precise reference to buck (a male deer) in this sense - buckshot, buckknife, or some other buckhorn, buckskin or other buck-related item - is not proven and remains open to debate, and could be a false trail. While 'pass the buck' seems generally accepted (among the main dictionaries and references) as card-playing terminology for passing the deal or pot, and is generally accepted as the metaphorical origin of the modern expression meaning to pass the problem or responsibility, uncertainty remains as to what exactly the buck was. No-one knows for sure. To complicate matters further, buck and bucking are words used in card-playing quite aside from the 'pass the buck' expression referring to dealing. For example - an extract from the wonderful Pictorial History of the Wild West by Horan and Sann, published in 1954, includes the following reference to Wild Bill Hickock: \"... He didn't wear down the two-inch heels of his sixty-dollar boots patrolling the streets to make law 'n order stick. He spent most of his time bucking the cards in the saloons...\" In this extract the word buck does not relate to a physical item associated with the buck (male deer) creature. This reference is simply to the word buck meaning rear up or behave in a challenging way, resisting, going up against, challenging, taking on, etc., as in a bucking horse, and found in other expressions such as bucking the system and bucking the trend. So while we can be fairly sure that the card-playing terminology 'pass the buck' is the source of the modern saying, we cannot be certain of what exactly the buck was. (My thanks to S Karl for prompting the development of this explanation.)
off your trolley/off his or her trolley - insane, mad or behaving in a mad way - the word trolley normally describes a small truck running on rails, or more typically these days a frame or table or basket on casters used for moving baggage or transporting or serving food (as in an airport 'luggage trolley' or a 'tea-trolley' or a 'supermarket trolley'). However the 'off your trolley' expression is more likely derived (ack H Wadleigh) from the meaning of trolley that was and is used to describe the overhead pick-up for an electric vehicle, including the 'trolley wheel', which connected the vehicle's overhead booms (arms) to the power wires. The vehicle - commonly a bus or a tramcar - that was powered via this a trolley-wheel electric connection was called a trolley car, or streetcar or trolley bus. In this sense the word trolley related to the trolley-wheel assembly connecting the vehicle to the overhead power lines, not to the vehicle itself. Trolley cars and buses were first developed in the UK and USA in the 1880s, and development of improved trolley mechanics continued through the early decades of the 1900s, which gives some indication as to when the expression probably began. The overhead trolley was in past times not particularly reliable. It needed guides to keep it on the wire, but the guides could never be large enough to survive heavy bumps since they would then bump into the structural supports for the wire. Trolleys would therefore often bump off the wire, bringing the vehicle to an unexpected halt. Being 'off the trolley' generally meant disabled or broken, which provided an obvious metaphor for mad behaviour or insanity. Where trolley vehicles have continued in use or been reintroduced the trolleys have generally been replaced by 'pantagraph bars' (named after the piece of illustrator's equipment that they resemble). The evolution of 'troll' and 'trolley' (being the verb and noun forms) relating to wheels and movement seem to derive (according to Chambers) from same very old meanings of 'wander' from roots in Proto-Germanic, Indo-European, and Sanskrit words, respectively, truzlanan, the old 'trus' prefix, and dreu/dru prefix, which relate to the modern words of stroll, trundle and roll. See also 'Trolly and Truck' in the rhyming slang section.
turkey / cold turkey / talk turkey / Turkey (country) - the big-chicken-like bird family / withdrawal effects from abruptly ending a dependency such as drugs or alcohol / discuss financial business - the word turkey, referring to the big chicken-like bird, is very interesting; it is named mistakenly after the country Turkey. Here's how: the turkey bird species/family (as we know it in its domesticated form) was originally native only to Mexico. It was found by the Spanish when they invaded that part of central America in 1518, having been domesticated by the Mexican people. The birds were brought to England in 1524 and appeared in Europe in 1530, and by 1575 had become associated across Europe with Christmas celebrations. The modern word turkey is a shortening of the original forms 'turkeycock' and 'turkeyhen', being the names given in a descriptive sense to guinea-fowl imported from Africa by way of the country of Turkey, as far back as the 1540s. The words turkeycock/turkeyhen were soon (circa 1550s) applied erroneously to the Mexican turkey because it was identified with and/or treated as a species of the African guinea fowl. Much later turkey came to mean an inept person or a failed project/product in the mid 1900s, because the bird was considered particularly unintelligent and witless. This perhaps contributed to the meaning of the 'cold turkey' expression, referring to the painful uncontrollable effects suffered by people when withdrawing from dependence on hard drugs, or simple deprivation. The expression 'cold turkey' seems was first used in this sense in the 1950s and appeared in the dictionary of American slang in 1960. The cold turkey expression is mainly a metaphor for the cold sweat condition, and particularly the effect on the sufferer's skin, experienced during dependency withdrawal. (Specifically, thanks Dr A Howard, during narcotic drug withdrawal, the skin of the patient becomes sweaty, pale and nodular - like the skin of a plucked turkey. This is caused by the over-activity of muscles in the skin layers called Erector Pili muscles.) Prior to this and certainly as early as 1928 (when 'cold turkey' appeared in the British Daily Express newspaper), the cold turkey expression originally meant the plain truth, or blunt statements or the simple facts of a matter, in turn derived from or related to 'talk turkey', meaning to discuss seriously the financial aspects of a deal, and earlier to talk straight and 'down-to-earth'. The constant 'goggle-gobble' chattering associated with turkey birds would have appealed as a metaphorical notion in this expression, as would the image of turkeys pecking 'down-to-earth', and being a commodity subject to vigorous and no-nonsense trading and dealing at seasonal times. This 'talk turkey' usage dates back to the early-1800s USA, where it almost certainly originated. Incidentally the country name Turkey evolved over several hundred years, first appearing in local forms in the 7th century, referring to Turk people and language, combined with the 'ey' element which in different forms meant 'owner' or 'land of'. The original meaning of the word Turk in referring to people/language can be traced to earlier Chinese language in which some scholars suggest it referred to a sort of battle helmet, although in fact we have no firm idea. 781b155fdc