private Eye

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A private detective. The term is first recorded in a story (1938) by Raymond Chandler. It has been suggested that the origin of the expression was the American detective agency founded by Allan Pinkerton; their motto (c.1855) was ‘We never sleep’, and the agency was informally known as ‘The Eye’.

Private Eye is the title of a British satirical magazine, founded in 1962; some of its ironical euphemisms, such as Ugandan affairs and tired and emotional, have passed into the language.

Subjects: Literature.

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