A.W.A.D. - Whose What

Last year we featured a week of terms in the pattern "x's y", for example"busman's holiday" (a vacation spent doing things as at work) or "widow's peak" (a v-shaped hairline at the top of the forehead). Terms that answer the question "Whose what?" generate a huge response from readers. Perhaps that's because each of those phrases has a story behind it.

Last month we featured a week of such terms coined after animals, such as a dog's letter (the letter R) and a mare's nest (a confused mass; a hoax). This week we'll discuss terms named after specific persons.

Buckley's chance
(BUK-leez chans) noun
No chance at all (or only a very slim chance).

Also called "Buckley's and none" or "Buckley's hope".

[The origin of the term isn't certain but the most popular story pins it to William Buckley (1780-1856), a British convict transported to Australia. There, he escaped and found refuge among the Aborigines for more than three decades. When he was rediscovered he had forgotten how to speak English. Since survival in the outback was difficult it was said that anyone lost there had Buckley's chance of making it.

Another possibility is a pun on the Melbourne department store Buckley and Nunn, i.e. one has two chances: Buckley's or none.]

Pandora's Box
(pan-DOR-uhz boks) noun
A source of many unforeseen troubles.

[In Greek mythology Pandora received a "gift" of a jar which she was told never to open. Her curiosity got the better of her. She opened the lid, and out came its contents: all the evils of human life.]

Job's comforter
(johbz KUM-fuhr-tuhr) noun
A person who tries to console or help someone who not only fails but ends up making the person feel worse.

[Originally there was not just one, but three Job's comforters. In the Biblical story these people tried to console Job, an upright person, that his troubles must be divine retribution for his sins.

There are Job's comforters in current times as well: soon after any disaster these TV preachers are ready to explain how the afflicted had offended gods and brought it upon themselves.]

Buggin's turn
(BUG-inz turn) noun
Assignment to a position based on seniority or rotation, instead of merit.

Also Buggins's turn.

[The identity of this original Buggin(s) fellow is, unfortunately, lost in the mist of history.]


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