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Showing posts from April, 2017

Playing for Keeps

When I started researching to origin of this phrase I clicked on one site that was talking about the origin being in a game of marbles and I thought, "No way."


The origin of this phrase is found in the oldest game in recorded, and unrecorded apparently, history! Marbles! Click here to read all about it.

Today the phrase is used beyond a game of marbles and means that things are serious and for real and there's no playing around.

Fist Pump

It’s hard to escape it these days. It is sweeping the world like an epidemic. When you see someone’s fingers and thumb start to curl into their palm and they begin to raise their arm, there’s only one thing that could be coming… the fist pump or ‘guts pose’ as the Japanese call it. (source)

Read more about the actual history of the fist pump here.

Really the fist pump probably doesn't qualify as an idiom but it is a part of our speech that needs to be explained from time to time so I decided to include it. (My blog my choice! *wink*)

Greased Lightning

The origin of this phrase is literal mixed with a descriptive. Read about it here
The phrase, when used, means extremely fast. Or it could mean one of the songs on the Grease soundtrack. *wink*

On Cloud Nine

It seems that it is the clouds themselves, rather than the number of them, that were in the thoughts of those who coined this phrase. The imagery was originally of a 'cloud cuckoo land' or 'head in the clouds' dreaminess, induced by either intoxication or inspiration, rather than the 'idyllic happiness' that we now associate with the phrase. (source)

As mentioned above the figurative use of it now is that of a blissful state of happiness - sometimes so much so that we miss reality happening around us!

I confess - I look at the bliss - the cloud nine feeling these pictures convey - and I feel jealous. Have I ever felt that free? Have you?

Needle in a haystack

The first use of this expression, and its likely origin, is by the writer Miguel de Cervantes, in his story Don Quixote de la Mancha written from 1605-1615. According to Bartlett's, the expression 'As well look for as needle in a bottle of hay' (translated from the original Spanish) appears in part III, chapter 10. 'Bottle' is an old word for a bundle of hay, taken from the French word botte, meaning bundle. Brewer (1870-94 dictionary and revisions) lists the full expression - 'looking for a needle in a bottle of hay' which tells us that the term was first used in this form, and was later adapted during the 1900s into the modern form.

And that modern use is - impossible search for something relatively tiny, lost or hidden in something that is relatively enormous.
I can't locate a clip of it but years back on The Amazing Race there was a needle in the haystack challenge and one team spent 8+  hours looking for it and never did locate it. Phil h…

Love Birds

This idiom is literal in its origin! There are actually love birds. Read about them here. The figurative use is for people who have a shared love.

Night Owl

Click here to read about the origin of this phrase.  It's used to describe someone who prefers staying up late into the night. 12 Things Every Night Owl Wants You To Know

Ducks in a row

There are numerous ideas surrounding the origin of this phrase and no search could definitively give an answer. Click here to read about the varying thoughts.

We use the phrase to describe needing to get all the details together before beginning a project, especially the smaller details.

Top Drawer

The top drawer is where Victorian gentry kept their most valuable items - jewelry, best clothes etc. So it became a phrase to indicate if someone was upper class or not. (source)

It's still used today to refer to someone of high class/society.

In the red

In the red comes from accounting practices. It seems that red ink was used to note a deficit while black ink signaled a profit. (source
Saying the phrase today means that we are also experiencing a deficit. 

I smell a rat

According to the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, written by Robert Hendrickson, the origins for this idiom are uncertain, however, he explains a theory behind it might possibly involve a cat being able to smell a rat nearby, despite not having sight of it.

The figurative use of this idiom is that something feels off - not quite right - but you can't quite put your finger on what it is.

Hit below the belt

Boxer Jack Broughton crafted rules for the London Prize Ring and this phrase showed up in those rules in a more sophisticated form. He meant it in the literal sense but today we use it mostly in the figurative to imply that something is underhanded or unfair. (source

Jump the gun

In a pickle

The 'in trouble' meaning of 'in a pickle' was an allusion to being as disoriented and mixed up as the stewed vegetables that made up pickles. Not surprisingly Shakespeare was one of the first to use this phrase in the 1610 writing of The Tempest. This phrase has a really interesting history, read all about it here.

When the phrase is used today it means that someone is in a difficult place or a quandary.

High and Dry

This nautical term refers to ships that have been beached. Read about it here
When the phrase is used these days it is usually in the figurative sense and means that a situation or person is left stranded or without help. 

Fish out of water

The exact origin of this phrase is unknown but it starts appearing in literary works as early as 1483 when Geoffrey Chaucer penned:
"...a huge man, uncouth; a master of vessel and knew all the ports; not ride well; like a fish out of water as sat on his horse."

The phrase meant then, as it still does today, that someone is in a situation that they are unsuited for or unfamiliar with.