5
votes
1answer
73 views

Why “on the books”, not “in the books”

On the books means "part of the law". These changes would add little to the civil rights laws now on the books. I know the meaning of this idiom, and idioms are used as they are, but idioms ...
1
vote
1answer
81 views

Dull as ditchwater (not dishwater) … specific questions thereon

(1) who specifically, or at least when specifically, did originate the phrase? {Example answer - "that was one of Shakespeare's!"} (2) why? (3) when first did someone screw up and use ...
3
votes
1answer
63 views

Does the “elbow-handshake” have any relation to the phrase “rubbing elbows”?

This is probably answerable with a general reference (or a pair of such references), but I have not been able to find one. Etymology Online does not cover the origin of "rubbing-elbows" as meaning ...
1
vote
0answers
48 views

What does it mean to drag something in “by the stamp?” [closed]

In a 1944 radio skit, Fibber McGee says another character dragged something in "by the stamp." Is the stamp a reference to rationing stamps used during WWII?
1
vote
1answer
85 views

Etymology of “throw good money after bad”?

The idiom "throwing good money after bad" refers to spending more money on something problematic that one has already spent money on, in the (presumably futile) hopes of fixing it or recouping one's ...
7
votes
2answers
115 views

Where does “flying in the face” come from?

To "fly in the face of" something means to be opposite it, with a particular connotation that is hard to describe. Where does the expression come from?
8
votes
3answers
707 views

Why is it “have someone wrapped around your LITTLE finger”?

I just had occasion to write she's got him wrapped around her finger (under complete control). I'd never really thought about this one before, but my guess would have been the idiom had some ...
2
votes
1answer
589 views

What is the origin of “go suck an egg”?

"Go suck an egg" is a saying typically used similarly to "take a hike" or "piss off": Hey, you going to help me with this or what? Go suck an egg. An few Ngram searches shows that "suck an ...
1
vote
3answers
129 views

What is the origin of the phrase “knock-down, drag-out”?

I can find this phrase in a few dictionaries: knock-down, drag-out — marked by extreme violence or bitterness and by the showing of no mercy knock–down, drag–out political debates But I ...
1
vote
1answer
179 views

Using “So” Followed by a Noun Phrase to Express Boredom, Disgust, Tediousness, Dullness, Banality

In the BBC TV series Sherlock’s episode two from series three, “The Empty Hearse", John Watson waxes maudlin over being left out of the loop for two years regarding Sherlock’s faked death. Sherlock ...
2
votes
4answers
94 views

is “merablum” or “merablem” a word?

is there a word "merablum"? maybe "merablem"? It means scrap or remnant of food left on a plate. I always thought it was a word but I googled it and - nothing. Is Google unaware of it or is it a made ...
8
votes
2answers
312 views

why do some people call green peppers mangoes?

I have heard people from Lima, Ohio refer to green peppers as mangoes. How did that come about?
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Etymology of the idiom “by and large”

The idiomatic phrase by and large means largely; generally; mostly The two earliest usages listed in Google's ngram, from 1812 and 1837, appear to use it in its current form and meaning. What ...
4
votes
3answers
96 views

“running a fever” origin

I'm running a fever/temperature. I have a student who likes to ask where idioms come from. Since the meanings are not literal, it is challenging for her to remember them. It often helps her to ...
0
votes
1answer
158 views

Idioms and bodyparts: punch your lights out and lights

There is an idiom "I'll punch your lights out" which means punch someone's lights out Sl. to knock someone out with a fist There is also "lights" which, when used about a body, mean ...
0
votes
3answers
243 views

“Any way, shape, or form”

"[In] any way, shape, or form" is a rhetorical idiom, in which shape and form tend to function as intensifiers. It is normally used for emphasis where the non-idiomatic phrases "[in] any way" or (less ...
6
votes
3answers
399 views

What is the geographical origin of the idiom “be a fly on the wall”?

Does the following expression originate from English? I'd like to be a fly on the wall I discovered today that a similar expression exists in Brazilian Portuguese: "I'd like to be a fly" (with ...
3
votes
4answers
3k views

What's the origin of “water under the bridge”?

What's the origin/background of the phrase "water under the bridge"? To what does it allude? I understand it means to let bygones be bygones--to move on from the past. But I don't think I understand ...
4
votes
1answer
49 views

Who was Buggins of 'Buggins' turn'?

'Buggins' turn' refers to the practice of assigning appointments to persons in rotation, rather than on merit. The OED records this and gives examples of its use from 1901. As regards etymology it ...
2
votes
3answers
324 views

“Under/straight from the horse's mouth” — etymology?

I'm reading Kim Philby's autobiography, My silent war, where in the early pages he describes an acquaintance as being under the horse's mouth, the proverbial horse being some high-ranking official. ...
0
votes
1answer
366 views

What is the origin of 'common or garden'?

Why do we speak, for example, of a 'common or garden' bicycle, meaning one that simply does the job of a bicycle without alloy wheels, Sir Bradley Wiggins pedals or any other bells and whistles. ...
2
votes
2answers
335 views

What is the origin of “I calls ’em like I sees ’em”?

This expression seems to be pretty widespread, for example being in Wiktionary and Futurama. Does anyone know what the origin is? Also, what kind of dialect might I calls or I sees be?
1
vote
2answers
196 views

Once bitten twice shy [closed]

What is the meaning and origin of the idiom 'once bitten twice shy'?
3
votes
1answer
50 views

Is William Blake's usage of “to break a net” idiomatic or metaphorical?

The following passage is from William Blake's 1793 work "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell": A man carried a monkey about for a shew, & because he was a little wiser than the monkey, grew vain, ...
2
votes
1answer
120 views

Origin of “nose out of joint”

I was watching a TED talk on cartoons in The New Yorker, and the presenter used an idiom I've never heard. But like I said, you cannot satisfy everyone. You couldn't satisfy this guy. ...
6
votes
1answer
116 views

Concessive “as much as” and “much as”. Which came first?

Related: "Much though" vs "much as", Use of 'Much as' [closed], Using “as much as” at start of sentence Consider the following two variations: As much as I hate to admit it, I cannot swim. ...
5
votes
1answer
117 views

What's the meaning and the origin of “skewer a sacred cow ?” [closed]

I've read this idom from an article, and it seems that the phrase "skewer a sacred cow" mean "to criticize" but I am not very sure. Does anyone know the exact meaning and the origin of this idom?
1
vote
2answers
204 views

How did “yours truly” become a euphemism for “I” or “me”?

Rarely but occasionally I've seen yours truly appear in text when the author wishes to refer to him- or herself. An example from The Cambridge Dictionary: Some folks, such as yours truly, can't ...
2
votes
3answers
126 views

Origin of “to be in fat city”?

What is the origin of the phrase "to be in fat city" meaning "to do well" (financially or otherwise)? A search with an internet search engine suggests that it is of fairly recent vintage, as the two ...
1
vote
3answers
134 views

Bike Race question - Loser gets to be the girl [closed]

I don't remember which movie it was in, but there were two men (filled with testosterone), and they had this bet that the loser would be the girl. It was never specified what ''gets to be the girl'' ...
6
votes
4answers
7k views

What does “no love lost” mean and where does it come from?

I have trouble with the idiom "no love lost". I understand that it is used when people are at odds or don't get along, but I don't understand why. Interpreted literally it sounds like there should be ...
4
votes
4answers
820 views

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE

Idiom: in my neck of the woods, AmE The meaning of this expression is: in the region where I live. Once I tried to find out how a word meaning a part of the body can develop an expression where it ...
3
votes
2answers
152 views

What is the derivation of “out like a light” meaning “to lose consciousness quickly”?

The idiomatic relationship between out like a light and falling asleep (or being rendered comatose) quickly is easily understood in the context of electric lights extinguished instantly by a switch. ...
1
vote
1answer
905 views

Origin of “to have an axe to grind”

Where does the idiom to have an axe to grind come from? To have personal, selfish reasons to do or say something.
1
vote
1answer
73 views

Deconstructing 'for crying out loud'

How did the phrase/idiom for crying out loud come about? I don't understand what is "for" doing here. For X means that X is a requirement that has to be fulfilled. Why don't you do it *for X* means ...
5
votes
5answers
841 views

What's the origin of “rob someone blind”?

To rob someone blind either means to steal freely from them, or to overcharge them: Fig. to steal freely from someone. Her maid was robbing her blind. I don't want them to rob me blind. Keep an ...
3
votes
2answers
1k views

“Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” meaning and etymology

In my experience, referring to someone in an organization as "chief cook and bottle washer" has multiple possible meanings: person has a wide variety of duties in the organization person is very, ...
1
vote
1answer
56 views

Streamer/Ribbon Difference Question

Just a different question but it's bugging me, I need an answer. I used to come from France to the USA when i was a boy to visit my family, and to my great annoyance (they thought it would suit my ...
4
votes
3answers
348 views

What is the origin of the word 'mug up'?

What is the origin of the expression mug up? How did it originate? Does it give any meaning to its actual definition?
2
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the oldest trick in the book?

Is there one trick that is the oldest? I understand the Oxford definition of the idiom but when was it first used and what did it refer to?
4
votes
3answers
891 views

Origin of “eat my hat”

I recently came across this expression: eat my hat I googled and found some results. I agree that eating a hat is not easy. But why hat? They could have chosen shoes, gloves, shirt, to name a ...
0
votes
2answers
379 views

How did the phrase “hear you out” or “hear me out” come about?

How did the phrase "hear you out" or "hear me out" come about? The phrase means "listen to whatever I have to say before you pass judgment on me," or "tell me whatever you want; I don't mind and ...
2
votes
1answer
267 views

The exact sense and origin of “to stick it to someone”

From a blogpost at BBC, Did internet kill the radio star? David Lowery, lead singer for the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven, tells the BBC that illegal sharing of music files is ...
4
votes
5answers
26k views

Original Meaning of Blood is thicker than water, is it real?

I recently read that the phrase "Blood is thicker than water" originally derived from the phrase "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb", implying that the ordinary meaning ...
-1
votes
1answer
104 views

Phraseme “THROW THE BOOK AT”. [duplicate]

I'm looking for info on how this idioms origin was documented to the USA? Can I grammatically eliminate any tie to the german book listed below. Could a latin spanish or Russian form translate well ...
1
vote
1answer
277 views

Where does the idiom “root for sth” come from?

I am familiar with the idiom “to root for sth” meaning that I am hoping for something to happen or taking the side of something. But what does this have to do with roots? Does it mean that I am ...
3
votes
1answer
148 views

Are hatters really mad? [closed]

Given the winter festival and the wearing of hats on stackexchange, I'm reminded about the expression "as mad as a hatter." Does the term "mad" here apply to derangement or anger management issues? ...
17
votes
5answers
2k views

Etymology of “nick” in, in the nick of time?

We have the nick meaning prison, as in "he served time in the nick", then we have the verb to nick, meaning to steal; but if the police catch you red-handed, then "you've been nicked". And if you led ...
-2
votes
1answer
1k views

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” vs. “Out of sight, out of mind” [closed]

So which is it? Do we feel more sentimental when we are apart from our loved ones, or do we tend to forget friends and lovers easily once they are out of our sight? Which idiom came first, and was the ...
3
votes
1answer
121 views

“Advice I wish I'd had ears to hear” — is this phrase in common use? Origins?

Productivity writer Merlin Mann often uses the phrase "ears to hear" on his podcast. An example from his writing: "a discursive mishmash of advice I wish I'd had the ears to hear in the year or ...