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Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase & Fable
John AytoJohn Ayto, Ian CroftonIan Crofton


The automobile name first came before the public in 1906 when the motoring and aviation pioneer Charles S. Rolls (1877–1910) and the electrical engineer Henry Royce (1863–1933) formed a company to produce a high-quality car. Models such as the Silver Ghost and Silver Shadow became equal names of excellence, and the car's bonnet figure, Charles Sykes's ‘Spirit of Ecstasy’, was part of the prestigious image. Rolls, the first Englishman to fly across the Channel, lost his life in an air crash and when Royce died in 1933 the colour of the monogram RR on the car's bonnet was changed from red to black. The name came to be used allusively to describe a person or thing that is the best of its kind.

It [Animal Fair] is the Rolls-Royce of dog magazines which will focus on the pashmina-wrapped lifestyles of celebrities and their beloved pets.

The Times (9 October 1999)

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