Q From Laura F Spira: I wonder if you can help with a query: what is the origin of the expression a turn up for the book, presumably indicating an unexpected outcome, a surprise?
A It now means exactly what you say, something surprising. The origin is in horse racing, where the book was the record of bets laid on a race kept by — who else — a bookmaker. So when a horse performed in a way that nobody expected, so that most bets lost, it was something that benefited the book and so the bookmaker. The classic example would be a rank outsider that won with few bets on it, netting the bookmaker a nice windfall profit.
Search World Wide Words
Recently added or updated
Who coined forecast?; Vigintillion; Hingle; Bookaneer; Pig sick; Adimpleate; Deodand; Ilk; Fowler’s Modern English Usage; Skint; Vellichor; Galoot; Crizzling; Caparisoned; Volleyballene; Trove; Smithereens; Worry wart; Punch list; Verbigeration; Heliotrope; Ditty bag; E30; Old fogey.
Support World Wide Words!
Donate via PayPal. Select your currency from the list and click Donate.
Buy from Amazon and get me a small commission at no cost to you. Select your preferred site and click Go!