Saturday, August 26, 2017

Buh bye idioms, it was nice getting to know you!

And so for the past 365 days we've learned about idioms together. Some we've all heard before, others we hadn't. Some I didn't even get to!

There's no doubt about it, as Flula Borg said, "The hardest portion of English, I must say it: Idioms." But now we all have a better knowledge about what some of the more obscure ones mean or intend to convey. I hope it was fun for you, it was for me!

I now leave you with this very profound thought *by* Ted (of Bill and Ted)...

365 is taking a break but a short one! I'll be back at the end of September with an all new 365. #ICannotWait #WaitForIt #HashtagNotPoundSign #TooManyHashtags #365Experiment #TakeAGuess #SeeYouSoon

Heard it through the grapevine

Soon after the telegraph was invented the term 'grapevine telegraph' was coined - first recorded in a US dictionary in 1852. This distinguished the new direct 'down-the-wire' telegraph from the earlier method, which was likened to the coiling tendrils of a vine. It's clear that the allusion was to interactions amongst people who could be expected to be found amongst grapevines, that is, the rural poor. Read more about it here.

Today we use the phrase to mean we heard some information through an unofficial source.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Shiver me timbers

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "shiver my timbers" as "a mock oath attributed in comic fiction to sailors." (source) But other sources say it is more literal - that a shiver back in the day indicated something breaking into pieces. So when a cannonball would hit it would shiver the timbers. (source)

It seems today it's used mostly to talk like a pirate, ha! But it is also used to express surprise - both good and bad.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wouldn't harm a fly

This phrase, then and now, suggests that someone is so gentle, or nonviolent, that they would not even harm a single, pesky little fly. It first appeared in 1778, read about it here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Break the ice

There's an interesting theory about this phrase involving steam-powered icebreaker ships but it turns out that before those ships were around breaking up ice the phrase popped up in a poem authored by Samuel Butler. Read about it here.

Using the phrase today is exclusive to the context of social situations in which there is a first time meeting between people or a tension that exists. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

The sky's the limit

This phrase originated at a time of optimism and progress - in the USA just before WWI. It appeared in print in 1911, read about it here.

We use it to say there are no limits to what can be done.