1
vote
3answers
55 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
99 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'' ...
4
votes
2answers
88 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
136 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
79 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. ...
2
votes
1answer
82 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
59 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
164 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 ...
-1
votes
2answers
57 views

idiom: much the worse for wear [closed]

idiom: much the worse for wear Somehow this expression seems twisted. The comparative worse is irritating. What words are lacking and how can it become a clear and logical expression? What ...
3
votes
2answers
230 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
43 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
2answers
162 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
1k 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
481 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
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 ...
2
votes
1answer
112 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 ...
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 ...
-1
votes
1answer
66 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
102 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
127 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
860 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
633 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
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 ...
2
votes
3answers
448 views

Why do we say “to fall in love”? Is it something unwished for?

I was exploring the phrases for "to fall in love" in some other languages. And I came out with the result, only English describes the state of starting to feel love for someone as "falling". I wonder ...
0
votes
1answer
394 views

Why do we “shed” blood, sweat or tears but not other things?

I found the following definition of shed (the verb): chiefly dialect : to set apart : segregate to cause to be dispersed without penetrating a. to cause (blood) to flow by cutting or ...
4
votes
2answers
1k views

What does “enough” mean in expressions like “Fair enough” or “Funny enough”?

As a non-native speaker, I already get used to the word enough in expressions like those below, but I sometimes still got confused of it. It makes me wonder what it actually means and where does it ...
2
votes
2answers
1k views

Origin of the saying 'eyes like pissholes in the snow'

What is the origin of the phrase eyes like pissholes in the snow?
3
votes
3answers
516 views

Is the usage of idiom, “get hold of the wrong end of the stick” situation specific?

I came across the idiom, “get hold of the wrong end of the stick” in the following sentence of the scene where Barry Calvert, an FBI agent tells his colleague, Mark Andrews about the statement of an ...
5
votes
2answers
179 views

What is the origin of the idiom “tight fit” meaning a good joke?

I've recently been studying etymology and I received a book titled Flappers 2 Rappers: A Study of American Youth Slang written by Dr. Thomas Dalzell. Dr. Dalzell's research goes as far back as the ...
0
votes
3answers
135 views

where does the idiom 'driving me mad' come from?

any ideas? It's for use in an English Language class I teach.
2
votes
1answer
169 views

Local color / color commentary

What are the origin and history of the phrases "local color" and "color commentary"? There is a tiny bit in the dictionaries about this use of color to mean 'additional detail and anecdotes' but not ...
5
votes
3answers
602 views

Do you know the meaning of the American idiom “pot calling the kettle black”?

I just want to conduct a research about this American idiom and how native American people use it. Can you guys answer my questions in the following orders? If you have better questions, I will be ...
3
votes
2answers
178 views

What is the meaning of “Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain!”

The phrase "Twice yet, carle, I'll come to Spain!" occurs in the obscure fairy tale Molly Whuppie (more original version?) after a princess tricks a giant by stealing his sword. Contextually: "Woe ...
7
votes
1answer
2k views

Why “hoist” in “Hoist with one's own petard”?

He was hoist with his own petard is one of my father's favorite phrases. As a child I had developed a vague understanding of the idiom in which petard was a kind of flag, which is why it was hoist, ...
1
vote
1answer
135 views

Who translated “He's a muddled fool, full of lucid intervals.” [closed]

I have revised herein my question of Aug 18 and update my research based on the most helpful suggestions of Peter Schor and tchrist of Aug 18, 2013. I'm not a Cervantista and don't speak Spanish. ...
4
votes
2answers
610 views

“Short End of the Stick” Origin [duplicate]

I know what "short end of the stick" means, but I was wondering about its origin. How can sticks have a short end? If the stick itself is short, aren't both ends short to begin with? And yet the idiom ...
4
votes
1answer
167 views

Where does the phrase “neat but not gaudy” come from?

What is the origin of the phrase neat but not gaudy? I’m thinking that it might possibly be from Samuel Wesley or Dorothy Sayers — or, just possibly, from Josephine Tey.
6
votes
3answers
341 views

What is the role of “every” in idioms like “every so often”?

There are a couple of idioms whose meaning is from time to time or occasionally. Every so often (Every) once in a while (Every) now and then/again Every actually is a determiner (or, broadly ...
2
votes
3answers
1k views

What is the origin of the phrase “needle in a hay stack”?

What is the origin of the phrase "needle in a hay stack"? Initially I thought it was a game once played but I haven't found any mention of it outside of it's idiomatic use.
5
votes
1answer
1k views

Origin of “It's been a slice”

What is the origin of the phrase "it's been a slice"? I understand its meaning, but cannot find any listing of its origin, or possibly to what specifically "a slice" is referring.
5
votes
1answer
365 views

Origin of “in the drink”

I know what this means, but can't figure out why ponds, lakes, or oceans might be referred to as "the drink." From Wiktionary: (colloquial, with the) Any body of water. If he doesn't pay off ...
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 ...
0
votes
2answers
1k views

Origin of “don't have a coronary”?

I'm assuming the entire phrase would be "don't have a coronary occlusion" meaning "don't have a heart attack." I haven't been able to find anything useful regarding when or where it might have ...
0
votes
2answers
395 views

What's the origin of the idiom “miss the boat”?

What is the origin of the idiom miss the boat? This is the definition of the idiom from Dictionary.com: a. to fail to take advantage of an opportunity: He missed the boat when he applied too late ...
2
votes
1answer
349 views

What's the origin of the idiom “on the same page”?

What is the origin of the idiom on the same page? This is the definition of the idiom from Wiktionary: In broad agreement or sharing a common general understanding or knowledge (common in office ...
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 ...
5
votes
1answer
728 views

Origin of dead giveaway [duplicate]

I was answering a question at ELL and used the phrase "dead giveaway" and thought that it might not be clear to a non-native speaker. This thought lead me to wonder, where did we get that phrase. I ...
9
votes
1answer
6k views

Origin of “to have a cow”

The phrase "to have a cow" is defined as "to be very worried, upset, or angry about something" in Free Dictionary Online. Other sources also define it to mean to react very strongly and emotionally. ...
25
votes
4answers
2k views

Why do we say that an obscene joke is “off-color”?

Why do we say that an obscene joke is "off-color"? Is a G-rated joke "on-color"? What color? When and how did this idiomatic expression come from?
4
votes
1answer
89 views

How did “Captain” become a term for a businessman who employed prison labor?

My great grandfather, who owned a small railroad and lumber business in central Georgia after the Civil War, was referred to frequently as "Captain." I learned that that was not a military rank, but ...