"homely or unattractive woman, girl without beauty," attested by 1912, a rhyming formation from plain (adj.).
"ordinary dress of civil life" (as opposed to military uniform), 1822; in reference to police detectives, it is attested from 1842. Also plainclothes.
lake of the River Jordan, mid-13c., from dead (adj.); its water is 26 percent salt (as opposed to 3 or 4 percent in most oceans) and supports practically no life. In the Bible it was the "Salt Sea" (Hebrew yam hammelah), also "Sea of the Plain" and "East Sea." In Arabic it is al-bahr al-mayyit "Dead Sea." The ancient Greeks knew it as he Thalassa asphaltites "the Asphaltite Sea." Latin Mare Mortum, Greek he nekra thalassa (both "The Dead Sea") referred to the sea at the northern boundaries of Europe, the Arctic Ocean.
type of metal-cased bullet which expands on impact, 1897, named for Dum-Dum arsenal in Bengal. British army soldiers made them to use against fanatical charges by tribesmen. Outlawed by international declaration, 1899. The place name is literally "hill, mound, battery," cognate with Persian damdama.
It was to stop these fanatics [Ghazi] — and that firstclass fighting man Fuzzy-Wuzzy, of the Soudan and of Somaliland—that the thing known as the Dum-Dum bullet was invented. No ordinary bullet, unless it hits them in a vital part or breaks a leg, will be sufficient to put the brake on these magnificently brave people. ["For Foreign Service: Hints on Soldiering in the Shiny East," London, 1915]
Pile on the brown man's burden
And if ye rouse his hate,
Meet his old fashioned reasons
With Maxims up-to-date;
With shells and dum dum bullets
A hundred times make plain,
The brown man's loss must ever
Imply the white man's gain.
[Henry Labouchère, from "The Brown Man's Burden," 1899]
severe Puritanical code said to have been enacted mid-17c. at the founding of New Haven and Connecticut colonies, 1781; of uncertain signification, perhaps from the notion of coldness, or from one of the figurative senses in blue (adj.1). Blue was the color adopted by 17c. Scottish Covenanters (in contradistinction to the royal red) and hence the color for a time acquired an association with strictness in morals or religion. Or perhaps connected to bluestocking in the sense of "puritanically plain or mean" (see bluestocking, which is a different application of the same term); the parliament of 1653 was derisively called the bluestocking parliament.
The assertion by some writers of the existence of the blue laws has no other basis than the adoption by the first authorities of the New Haven colony of the Scriptures as their code of law and government, and their strict application of Mosaic principles. [Century Dictionary]
Long, detailed lists of them often are given, but the original reference (in an anonymous history of Connecticut printed in London during the Revolution) says they were so-called by the neighboring colonies, "were never suffered to be printed," and then gives its own long list of them in quotations. The common explanation (dating to 1788) that they were written on blue paper is not now considered valid.