Macquarie Dictionary


Bohemian Rhapsody: 10 phrases made famous by music

We love a good phrase with an interesting etymology. Better yet when the phrase itself came about through the medium of music. From classic rock to rap and even children’s music, inspiration can be found across many different genres.

Here we share our top 10 favourite phrases brought to you by music icons.

Is there a favourite phrase with an interesting musical etymology that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!







Macquarie Dictionary-down under-Australia Nothing was the same after the release of Men at Work’s ‘Down Under’. Featuring glowing women, a fried out combie, vegemite sandwiches, and thunderous chunder – Australia’s tourism has been booming ever since.
Macquarie Dictionary-AC/DC-Australian hard-rock group, formed in 1973; members have included Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott, Brian Johnson (replacing Scott after his death), Cliff Williams, and Phil Rudd; inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 1988. Not all of us are sparkies but Aussie legends AC/DC sure helped a few kids out with their science homework. AC/DC is used in the electrical world as an acronym for alternating current – direct current. These electrical currents are the basis for all electronics. So next time you’re listening to AC/DC on your iPhone or PC you can thank AC/DC for powering it up.
Macquarie Dictionary-bootylicious-(of a woman) sexually attractive. The turn of the century was probably not ready for this jelly but that didn’t stop Beyonce and co., from releasing ‘Bootylicious‘ in 2001. Used to describe a woman’s attractiveness, ‘Bootylicious’ has become a staple anthem at karaoke bars and RnB clubs.
Macquarie Dictionary-hound dog-a mean, despicable man. A US colloquialism made famous by the Elvis track of the same name. A cover of a ‘Big Mama’ Thornton song released in 1952, the King’s version changed some of the the lyrics from the original but the main hook about a despicable hound dog of a man has stuck and the hounds have been baying ever since.
Macquarie Dictionary-midnight oil-Australian rock group, formed in 1977, featuring lead singer Peter Garrett and drummer Rob Hirst; inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2006. Before Peter Garrett was a pollie burning the midnight oil over government policy, he was in Midnight Oil, the Aussie band known for hits like ‘Power and the Passion’ and ‘Beds are Burning’. Around the time the band was forming in the early 70’s Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner released a duet called ‘Burning the Midnight Oil’ but it wasn’t until the early 80’s when Garrett’s band started taking off internationally that the phrase made its way back into common usage.
Macquarie Dictionary-YOLO-you only live once. Popularised by Canadian rapper Drake, YOLO is the carpe diem of the 21st Century. You Only Live Once is used as a reminder to seize the day and not let your fears dictate your life. We guess this is also why it was shortened to the acronym YOLO thus shortening your time spent texting meaning you can fit more in your day. You only live once, after all.
Macquarie Dictionary-jiggy-stylish; sexy. Another hip hop original, jiggy was popularised by Will Smith’s smash hit ‘Getting Jiggy Wit’ It’. The origins of the phrase have a more meaningful origin than just a simple repurposing of the average jig. Smith used the song as an opportunity to empower the African-American community by using jiggy instead of “jigaboo”, a derogatory term, which was originally planned as the main hook for the song.
Macquarie Dictionary-hot potato-a risky situation, difficult person, or any other thing which needs careful handling. Here in Australia, we teach kids from an early age to be aware of the dangers of hot potatoes. Risky situations or risky people, hot potatoes need to be handled with extreme care. This is why parents have been listening to this tune on repeat for the last two decades, not because they’ve been forced against their will but because they want to make sure that their own offspring know the dangers of hot tuberous nightshades.
Macquarie Dictionary-mullet-a type of hairstyle, long at the back and cut short on the top and sides. This one is contentious. A lot of you may think that the humble mullet is an Aussie invention, however, some historians say it was popularised by the Beastie Boy’s track ‘Mullet Head’, an ode to all those who love to keep business in the front and a party out the back. Here at the Macquarie Dictionary, we’re undecided.
Macquarie Dictionary-bling bling-flashy, ostentatious, from blinger an extreme example of its kind; popularised by US rap singer BG in the song Bling Bling (1999). With origins in hip-hop and rap, bling bling was popularised by US rapper BG in his 1999 hit, ‘Bling Bling’. From gold chains (the male version of necklaces) to diamond encrusted mouth grills, bling bling is the modern day form of peacocking. Showing off your bling bling, shows the world your successes and wealth, which is something that will probably never go out of fashion.

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