Of the first water

01:00 Mon 12th Feb 2001 The AnswerBank

By Hermione Gray


THE PHRASE 'of the first water' comes from a technical term�that is used to describe a diamond.

The degree of brilliance in a diamond is called its 'water', so a 'diamond of the first water' is an exceptionally fine diamond, which has the greatest value for its size.

The term 'of the first water' has come to mean some kind of extreme, whether it's good or bad, such as 'a villain of the first water' or 'a star of the first water'.


Other diamond phrases include:


'Rough diamond' - this refers to a diamond�that is still in its natural stare, before it has been cut and polished. The phrase is used to describe someone who is worthy and has a good character, but lacks sophistication and social polish.


'Black diamonds' - coal. Coal gets this name because, like diamond, it's made from carbon.


Diamond Jim - Jim Brady, an American speculator and philanthropist who was born in 1856. He was a well-known character in Broadway nightlife, and that's where he got his nickname, because of the many diamonds he wore.


'Diamonds are forever' - this is the title of Ian Fleming's James Bond novel (1956) and the subsequent film (1971). The phrase originates from an advertising line for De Beers Consolidated Mines, which is based in South Africa. De Beers wanted to promote the tradition of diamond engagement rings and approached the N. W. Ayer advertising agency in Chicago. A copywriter, B. J. Kidd, came up with the line, 'A diamond is forever'. The phrase soon caught on.


'Diamonds are a girl's best friend' - this is a song written by Jule Styne and Leo Robin for the musical of the same name in 1949. The film was made in 1953.


'Diamond cut diamond' - this describes a situation in which a sharp-witted person meets their match.


'Diamond geezer' -�a modern phrase used, mainly in the London area, to describe a thoroughly nice bloke!

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