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The meaning and origin of the expression: On Carey Street

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On Carey Street

Meaning

Euphemism for being bankrupt or in debt.

Origin

on Carey StreetThis phrase originates from the London street where the UK bankruptcy court used to be located. The court moved to Carey Street in the 1840s but the phrase didn't emerge as a synonym for bankrupt until much later. The first reference I can find is a piece by James Agate, in The Saturday Review from 1922:

"The melancholy gentleman in direful Carey Street."

It is sometimes suggested that the term Queer Street is a slang synonym for Carey Street. That's not so however, as the use of that phrase pre-dates the court's move to Carey Street and, in any case, the two phrases don't mean quite the same thing.