1
vote
2answers
50 views

“Healthy” vs “healthful”— Do fruits and veggies work out?

The OED doesn't say much other than the two words have long been synonyms since the 1500s. healthful - promoting good health healthy - being in good health/condition Why do we say that ...
3
votes
3answers
112 views
+200

Origin of the phrase “mother's ruin”?

I was under the impression that the phrase "mother's ruin" came from the England in the 1800's, where many people living in London did so in absolute poverty, and gin (the so-called "mother's ruin") ...
0
votes
1answer
44 views

Why does the phrase “to take the rag off” mean to excel in the classroom?

A Collection of College Words and Customs (1851) by Benjamin Homer Hall defines to take the rag off as "to excel; to compose much better than one's classmates." I understand the phrase is quite old; ...
0
votes
1answer
45 views

Bora Bora, Here We Come

Saw this phrase/expression in CIBC advertisement. The pleased client asked, "should we re-investment or expand", and the bank clerk said, "you can do both", then the old lady in the back happily ...
2
votes
2answers
157 views

Origin of the phrase “on the wrong side of history”

I've been hearing the phrase "on the wrong side of history" a lot lately, most recently today when President Obama said that Russia was on "the wrong side of history" for its actions in Ukraine. ...
-2
votes
2answers
102 views

Etymology of “Houston, we have a problem!” [closed]

Where did the phrase "Houston, we have a problem" come from? I have heard it used a lot in movies. In which situations would it be used correctly?
7
votes
3answers
498 views

Where does the phrase “balls to the wall” come from?

I know the phrase means "going all out" but I can't figure out what it literally means or where it originates from.
3
votes
2answers
227 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, ...
3
votes
2answers
359 views

What is the origin of the phrase “zero, zip, zilch, nada”?

In the TV show Batman: The Animated Series, the character of Joker said the phrase "zero, zip, zilch, nada". Looking at Google results for that phrase, it seems to be more widely used, so I assume the ...
8
votes
1answer
277 views

Did the slang term “The Bomb” meaning “Very Cool” come from the American Jazz scene?

Searching Google for the history of the slang term "the bomb" (as in "That song is the bomb") yields a number of results in 40s/50s jazz glossaries, but they tend to at best give an artificial example ...
0
votes
2answers
132 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 ...
5
votes
3answers
748 views

“Rome was not built in a day” [closed]

I always heard this phrase from school, but never understood the actual meaning of it or how this phrase originated. What does this actually mean, and why was it Rome and not any other city? ...
0
votes
1answer
139 views

Where did “doggy dog world” come from?

This Ngram shows that people were happily saying "dog eat dog world" until the 1980s, when "doggy dog world" abruptly came into use. What might have accounted for this? (It was well before Snoop ...
5
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
0
votes
1answer
123 views

The elephant in the room

Where does the phrase "The elephant in the room" come from ? Why an elephant ? If it has to mean something big why not "the whale in the room" ? If it has to be something that needs urgent attention ...
2
votes
2answers
110 views

“To Cut Stick” Origin

I am reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. When Eliza realizes she and her son will be split up by a business deal, she runs away with him during the night. In the ensuing commotion the next morning, a boy named ...
4
votes
3answers
298 views

Origin of “Very Good, Sir!”

It's quite likely you've read a P.G. Wodehouse book. Well, then you'd also know about Jeeves, and something he says quite often: Very good, sir. Jeeves is a butler. And he isn't the only one to ...
1
vote
1answer
66 views

What is the origin of face 'turning around'?

I'm watching a documentary movie on the history of Roman Empire. There's a part where the narrator says "In 113 BC, the Roman General Carbo parleyed for peace with the barbarians. Then he turns around ...
9
votes
1answer
188 views

“… gets my goat”. What's my goat and why does it get it?

To get someone's goat is make them annoyed or irritated. But what is the goat and why does getting it annoy them? When and where does the phrase come from? What's the first known use?
4
votes
1answer
2k views

Origin of “Screw the pooch”

Wiktionary says this of "screw the pooch": The term was first documented in the early "Mercury" days of the US space program. It came there from a Yale graduate named John Rawlings who helped ...
2
votes
1answer
70 views

Who came up with “mascara lights” on cars?

Mascara lights are LED daytime running lights or lamps, typically in a wavy or curved pattern: This photo shows DRLs on an Audi A4-B8: When and where did this term originate? Is it an Audi ...
21
votes
5answers
2k views

Phrase: “Colder than a witch’s kiss!”

The following was used in a radio broadcast (The Adventures of Harry Lime, 14th December 1951, episode 20 “An Old Moorish Custom”) as Harry was hit on the back of his head with a rifle butt by a giant ...
2
votes
1answer
70 views

Where does the phrase “the many faces of …” originate?

There are countless titles of the form "the many faces of ...". A quick Google search finds nearly 500 million hits, starting with "The Many Faces of the Public Domain", "The Many Faces of the ...
6
votes
1answer
176 views

Where does “pop it in the oven” come from?

Where and when did the phrase "pop it in the oven" originate?
1
vote
4answers
356 views

The origin of “the long and the short of it”

I am not after the meaning, I am wondering how this phrase originated.
3
votes
1answer
97 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 ...
4
votes
2answers
234 views

What is a “mock euphemism?”

I have to make flashcards for my AP Lang class, but I can't find what a "mock euphemism" is anywhere. Can anyone help?
3
votes
4answers
533 views

Origin of the greeting “Sweet dreams”.

Does anybody know the etymology of the phrase "sweet dreams"? I tried googling but did not find anything satisfying. Is this a relatively new phrase of the modern world or has this been in use for ...
-1
votes
2answers
580 views

Meaning and origin of phrase “wear heart on sleeve” [closed]

What does the phrase "wear (one's) heart on (one's) sleeve" mean? I would appreciate if you could also tell me the origin of the same.
4
votes
4answers
2k views

Where and when did “Bucket List” come to mean what it does today?

I'm not sure I had even heard the term "bucket list" until the movie came out. I get the feeling though that the term long predates the movie. Can anyone identify how "bucket list" came to mean what ...
2
votes
4answers
225 views

Etymology of the phrase “Twenty-three Skidoo” as used in “Hey Arnold!”

The phrase “Twenty-Three Skidoo” has a very interesting and mysterious history described very thoroughly by the wikipedia article on the phrase. However, this article seems to indicate it’s usually ...
2
votes
2answers
164 views

Does anybody know where the phrase “lost to the ages” originates?

I think there's something fairly poetic about the origins of the phrase "lost to the ages" actually being lost to the ages, still I'd like to know where it hails from if anyone knows. Thanks
1
vote
1answer
105 views

What's the original/most used variant of “If I had a [dollar/dime/quarter/penny] for every time ____ ”?

I hear this a lot, even in songs, e.g. If I had a bill for all the philosophies I shared If I had a penny for all the possibilities I presented If I had a dime for every hand thrown up ...
1
vote
1answer
572 views

Origin of “Comparing apples and oranges”

What is the origin of the idiom "comparing apples and oranges," as in, You can't compare those things! That's like comparing apples and oranges. EDIT: I can find a book from 1889 making the ...
2
votes
1answer
167 views

The Origin of “Killing It”

Related to How did kil get its positive conntations. Which goes into the origin of "making a killing" and "killed the audience", but not this specific phrase. Musicians have a particular phrase for ...
5
votes
3answers
82 views

“Enter the Fairies” after a sudden clatter or crash?

In my family, who originate from Scotalnd, people cry "enter the fairies!" if something has caused a sudden crash, smash or clatter. I am guessing it comes from a stage direction, such as from ...
14
votes
6answers
749 views

Why does left come before right?

For example in the idioms "left and right", "left, right and centre", and in many contexts where both left and right are mentioned, it seems that the left usually comes before the right. Why is this ...
8
votes
5answers
2k views

Where does the phrase “in good nick” come from?

The term "in good nick" meaning "in a good condition" came up in conversation and I realised I had no idea where it came from. Searching online seems surprisingly fruitless- there are several roots ...
0
votes
1answer
392 views

Build a house, plant a tree, father a son

What is the origin of the phrase (and the principle) "build a house/home, plant a tree, father/raise a son/child" and its derivation (perhaps) "write a book, plant..."?
2
votes
1answer
414 views

What is a “cike” as in “taking the cike”?

In the novel Dracula I came upon the following sentence: "But the old Chapel, that took the cike that did. " Presumably that is an equivalent phrase to "took the biscuit". But a google search ...
8
votes
5answers
7k views

Origin of the expression “Dead to rights”?

I was watching a TV show and this term was used. I am familiar with the definition, but I was wondering the origin of the phrase. It does not make sense to me if taken literally. Reference
10
votes
2answers
803 views

What does “Small-ball crap” mean?

I heard it on House of Cards, the American TV series. The Congressman says it during a political discussion: I hate this small-ball crap! What is its meaning and etymology?
1
vote
1answer
74 views

How old is the phrase “A Healthy Pee” (or “A Healthy Piss”)

What is the earliest usage of the phrase "a healthy pee" or "a healthy piss"? The letter "P", or its spelled form, "pee", used euphemistically for "piss" (because "piss" begins with that letter -- ...
1
vote
2answers
2k views

How and when did “give it up for someone” start to mean asking for applause? [duplicate]

I recently attended a meeting where the speaker frequently used the phrase give it up for someone. I understand that this expression means to clap for the person or group mentioned. It is similar to ...
2
votes
4answers
106 views

Origin or explanation of using “the same” when you mean “it” [duplicate]

I just got this error message from some software Request does not fall under your permitted scope. So you are not authorized to update the same. This "the same" construction was particularly odd ...
6
votes
4answers
1k views

Why does “go spare” mean “get angry”?

I don't know whether the phrase "go spare" is used in the US, but it is very common in the UK. e.g. You're an hour late. Mum's going spare upstairs! I would like to know where the phrase comes ...
6
votes
3answers
16k views

“Hot mess” meaning and etymology

A phrase has started to be used somewhat frequently over the past few years: "hot mess". I have heard it in professional journalism (albeit, admittedly, mostly entertainment and/or gossip ...
1
vote
2answers
538 views

Origin of the term “eating your own dog food”

I'm trying to find the first usage of the term "eating your own dogfood", as a reference to companies, especially software companies, using their own products in house in order to more effectively ...
6
votes
1answer
102 views

Etymology of “typeface Weight”

My boss stated that he noticed the word "weight" is used to refer to the boldness of a character, and stated that he felt this was a new occurrence. My gut feeling is that this is an old term, ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Etymology of “blackguard rating” in the context of the British Army during the Crimean War

From Wikipedia: I never had such a blackguard rating in all my life – I who have had more than any woman – than from this Barry sitting on his horse, while I was crossing the Hospital Square with ...