Definition: An extremely attractive/sexy woman, specifically a blonde one
Example: Distracted by the blonde bombshell stepping out of the salon, Joe ran his new car straight into a telephone pole.
The ‘bombshell’ part of the idiom has been used to describe attractive women since the mid-nineteenth century. The reason why is unclear. The ‘blonde’ bit is easier to quantify. In 1933, actress Jean Harlow became the blonde bit. Her movie ‘Bombshell’ was released in the US, but the title was changed to ‘Blonde Bombshell’ for the UK release as audiences were mistaking it for a war movie. It was accompanied by racy taglines like ‘Lovely, luscious, exotic Jean Harlow as the Blonde Bombshell of filmdom’. With a tagline like that, no wonder the phrase stuck.
Incidentally, Harlow was also referred to as the ‘platinum blonde‘, a title awarded to her by Howard Hughes’ publicity department. They had tried other titles that weren’t quite so hot. The blonde landslide. The darling cyclone. Platinum blonde is infinitely better than either of those.
She died of kidney failure at the age of just 26. Some claim her death was hastened by her weekly use of chemicals like peroxide to keep her hair that famous colour.
Definition: To sit in the front passenger seat
Example: John wanted to ride shotgun as his elderly Aunts were sitting in the back and they smelled of wee.
It’s a term from the Wild West, isn’t it? Everybody knows that.
Well, yes and no.
There were indeed stagecoaches criss-crossing the American southwest during the nineteenth century. And sometimes, there were indeed shotgun toting men riding alongside the driver to protect whatever they were carrying. All true.
The problem is that the phrase doesn’t seem to have been used at all at the time. In all likelihood, it was a Hollywood invention used in the hundreds of Westerns pumped out by the studios, culminating in one simply called ‘Riding Shotgun’ in 1954 (starring Randolph Scott and a very young Charles Bronson).
The phrase can still be used in the sense of literally riding along as protection, either as a bodyguard, or as armed security in armoured vans. More commonly, it is used in the harmless sense of riding beside the driver on a car journey, often claimed on the way to the car with the cry of “I call shotgun!”
Definition: The power of the police and judicial system
Example: Terry thought that nobody could catch him for robbing the bank dressed as Mickey Mouse, but the long arm of the law tracked him down.
The long arm of the law refers to the far reaching powers of law enforcement authorities and is a very visual phrase. Just picture those long arms reaching for you…..
Its first usage seems to have referred to royalty, coined in the sixteenth century phrase ‘Kings have long arms’.
By the nineteenth century, it was law enforcement that had long arms in common language. In fact, the law’s arm had more than mere length. They had strength as well, described in another common phrase, less used today, ‘the strong arm of the law‘. At the end of those long and strong arms, yet another phrase described ‘the strong hand of the law‘. This particular one seems to refer to the practise of the police laying a hand upon your shoulder when arresting you. This habit coined a fourth phrase, that of the arrest being ‘a collar‘, as often the guilty party tried to take flight and the officer grabbed the first thing available…. his collar.
So. Four phrases. All from the single idea that justice will find you, no matter where you hide.
Iddy doesn’t care about that though. He just wants to know how he’s ever going to get his arm back to the right length.