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Gary Martin, author of Meanings and Origins provides us with the US origin of the phrase. He traced the earliest known printed reference to 1921. At the time it spoke of 'recent panics' in Arizona. The 'recent panics' referred to in that citation was the Bisbee deportations of 1917. Martin explains. "In Bisbee, Arizona, in the early years of the 20th century, a dispute between copper mining companies and mineworkers developed. In 1917, the workers, some of whom had organized in labour unions, approached the company management with a list of demands for better pay and conditions. These were refused and subsequently many workers at the Bisbee mines were forcibly deported to New Mexico." Martin continues, "It's tempting to surmise, given that the mineworkers were faced with a choice between harsh, underpaid work at the rock-face on the one hand and unemployment and poverty on the other, that this is the source of the phrase."

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