Miss the bus If you miss the bus, you miss a good opportunity. Someone who refused the offer of some HSBC shares at a low price some years ago, could now be said to have missed the bus. If you waste your opportunities for learning in school and don't do as well as you could, you might wonder later if you have missed the bus. The idiom could have arisen from any number of daily experiences with buses, but some say that it came from one particular example of missing the bus, which happened in the mid-19th century (yes, they did have buses - the word comes from the Latin 'omnibus', which means 'for all'; it was shortened in everyday speech and became our friend the 'bus', now even a Cantonese word!). The Church of England was deeply shocked when one of its most promising thinkers, John Newman, became a Roman Catholic. The day he decided this, his friend, whom he often listened to, was going to go and persuade him not to, but he missed the bus, never talked to Newman and church history was changed. So, dear readers, seize the day, make the most of your life and do not miss any buses! Mumbo jumbo Some Englishmen once heard some Africans speaking the language Mandingo, describing an idol they worshipped. They could not quite hear it properly and mispronounced it as 'mumbo-jumbo', which had a nice sound with its rhyme and un-English 'o' endings. It entered 18th-century English as a word signifying meaningless superstition and ceremony. It can still be used to brush aside rather impolitely any foreign customs or ideas that you think are ridiculous. The ugly statue that was worshipped was not forgotten either, and the word 'jumbo' began to be used to describe big, unpleasant, clumsy things (and people). It then became a playful word and, in 1865, London Zoo named a new elephant Jumbo. Jumbo became quite a superstar with an action-packed life. He gave thousands of children rides, but then became unfriendly and dangerous. He was sold to an American circus, crossed the Atlantic and was finally killed by a train. His fame made the word 'jumbo' much better known. Now it can be used for anything that is large: jumbo jets, jumbo-burgers, jumbo-pizzas and so on. It has even become the name of a cartoon character. This word has indeed come a long way since its early days in West Africa.