Top Shelf

In American English ‘top shelf’ denotes something of high quality.  In British English it references something with adult content.  Why the discrepancy?  The difference in meaning has to do with the root sources of these phrases.  In British English, ‘top shelf’ comes from book stores that would keep racy books out of the reach of children.   In America the phrase comes to us via bars that keep their best quality liquors on the top shelf.


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