Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 17th edition
revised by John Ayto
This is a rich resource, but understand that it has a very British bent. You get to learn that “beer and sandwiches” means informal negotiations, the “Dashing White Sergeant” is a Scottish country dance, “Brigg Fair” is an English rhapsody for orchestra, and “Emmets” are what tourists are called in Cornwall. Two pages are devoted to a list of football club nicknames — The Addicks, the Rokermen, the Mambas…
I also found this description of the Chicago Bears amusing: “A record-breaking professional American football team, with a home base at Wrigley Field.”
Despite that outdated info, I still found this useful and enjoyable to read, and I recommend getting it as a reference book for allusions and cultural literacy. There are entries on the Popemobile, Siegfried Line, Lady Bird, a shot in the arm, Iris (the movie), Comstockery, chicken Kiev, golden hello, Suzuki method, KGB, Manchukuo, planned obsolescence, zuppa inglese and Zut alors!
There are also extended entries featuring lists of 20th-century advertising slogans, aircraft names, famous last words, film star nicknames, first lines of novels, medical abbreviations, rock group names, and Soviet sayings.