Skip to main content

Questions tagged [phrase-origin]

For questions about the origin of a phrase or an expression. Also consider the 'etymology' tag.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
4 votes
3 answers
1k views

Whence comes the expression ‘’starve a cold, feed a fever?”

Is it true one should avoid food with a cold and conversely eat well when experiencing a fever? Or do I have this reversed? Generally speaking I listen to my body if I feel like eating I’ll eat.
Grundkeit's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
129 views

what is the origin of the phrase "gimme a break"?

Looking for the origins / earliest use of the phrase 'gimme a break' as meaning "come on there's no way, you're pulling my leg," or honestly any other meaning the phrase was used in as well. ...
alexdobrenko's user avatar
-1 votes
0 answers
39 views

Chasing the clouds away

A number of popular songs from the 1960's and 1970's contain a variant of the phrase "chasing the clouds away": Moody Blues, 1967, Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?): "It doesn't matter to ...
Mark Beadles's user avatar
  • 22.7k
18 votes
3 answers
3k views

Origin of "That tracks" to mean "That makes sense."

For the past few years, I have been hearing people say "that tracks," meaning "that makes sense." My search on Green's Dictionary of Slang yielded nothing with this clear meaning, ...
RaceYouAnytime's user avatar
16 votes
2 answers
2k views

Origin and grammaticality of "I like me ..."

A pattern: I like me a good book. I like me some fried eggs. Most English speakers would not express ideas in this way. However, this vernacular is not uncommon in some parts of the United States. ...
Brett Holman's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
62 views

Origin of the phrase "Xs and the Ys who love them"

I was just writing something, and the stock phrase "Xs and the Ys who love them" popped into my head (where X can represent pretty much any noun and Y any animate noun). Where did this ...
sasquires's user avatar
  • 169
6 votes
3 answers
170 views

When did "light (something) up" begin to mean shooting?

I was wondering if it would be period accurate if depicting someone like a soldier during World War I or II to say "light them up" to shoot the enemy and at what time the term came into use.
Dude Bruh's user avatar
1 vote
2 answers
112 views

What is the origin of "take one's medicine"? [closed]

I would really like to know where the idiom "take one's medicine" comes from. At first l thought it was another version of taste of their own medicine, but I found that these two have ...
Khayat's user avatar
  • 11
9 votes
3 answers
596 views

When and where did “First against the wall…” originate?

background The phrase: You’ll be first against the wall, when the revolution comes or, Come the revolution, you’ll be first against the wall and variants thereof, particularly the shortening & ...
Dan Bron's user avatar
  • 28.4k
2 votes
1 answer
115 views

How old is the phrase "emerald by day, ruby by night"?

I have found that the mineral alexandrite is described by a recurrent phrase, "emerald by day, ruby by night". I am trying to ascertain if this expression was current in a text written ...
Pedro Lamarão's user avatar
0 votes
0 answers
42 views

'Too good': Hyperbole, fossil, calque, quirk, something else?

I often hear the exclamation "too good" in Indian English. Sometimes it describes food, sometimes music, sometimes an event, anything really; it's rather versatile, common enough to have ...
Heartspring's user avatar
  • 8,620
1 vote
0 answers
145 views

Origin of the expression “turn the card” meaning to pass on an opportunity

I recently dropped the phrase “turn the card” meaning to pass on an opportunity in an answer of a sister site. While not a common expression, I would have expected most people that I converse with in ...
Dale M's user avatar
  • 1,754
-2 votes
1 answer
77 views

Origin of "turn the other cheek" [closed]

I’m wondering about the origin of “turn the other cheek”. I have heard it all my life.
Smythe's user avatar
  • 5
2 votes
0 answers
128 views

Which work of Shakespeare "oftentimes better than a master of one" appears in if it it accredited to him? [duplicate]

A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one is apparently accredited to William Shakespeare. Just to clarify - I mean the FULL quote, not just 'Jack of all ...
Ziarek's user avatar
  • 131
19 votes
4 answers
4k views

Why does English use the French "sans" for sans serif?

Is it because France had impactful printers and typecutters like the Garamonds and Jensons in the Renaissance? Or is it about being elegant and “Frenchified” when talking about something as peculiar ...
Dr Florence Hazrat's user avatar
19 votes
2 answers
5k views

Origin of the phrase "crazy as a coon"—is it racist?

Encountered most recently in the Procol Harum song "Lime Street." Does the phrase refer to a raccoon, or is the word here used in the sense of the slur?
guangming223's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
178 views

Who coined "times tables" and when?

I've always thought "times tables" to refer to multiplication tables was a British thing, but Wikipedia suggests it might be common in the US, too. Is anything known about when the term was ...
Prometheus's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
727 views

When did the insult “up yours” come into existence?

The movie Blazing Saddles used everything and anything to get a laugh. When the African American sheriff, newly assigned to a rural town, patrolled the main thoroughfare he happened upon an elderly ...
Dat Diesel's user avatar
4 votes
3 answers
2k views

Who coined the phrase "play the hand one is dealt"?

The cartoon character Snoopy in Peanuts by Charles Schulz said the phrase (a source): "You play with the cards you're dealt…" The variations of the phrase include, as far as I know: play ...
Masa Sakano's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
494 views

Origin of "home and dry"

Cambridge says that the idiom home and dry is British English, which explains why I hear it used around me. It means: to have successfully finished something but I have heard it used also literally. ...
fev's user avatar
  • 34.5k
2 votes
1 answer
300 views

When was the first use of "For sure"?

When (approximately) was the first recorded use of "for sure" to mean "certainly"? For example, I wanted it more than he did, for sure.
Betsy Rosen's user avatar
-1 votes
1 answer
624 views

Are the origins of ¡ay, güey! and 'oy vey' related at all? [closed]

Though both of these terms come from other languages, they are both said in English, depending on where one is. One (ay wey as a more English form) can mean holy crap!, and the other can mean ...
user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
3k views

What is the origin of the expletive "man alive!"?

There are various speculations about its origins: its being a euphemism for 'Good Lord' or a simplification of 'any living man' or again a shortened 'no matter – man alive!' (Thomas Hood 1845) "...
Insider_English's user avatar
2 votes
2 answers
347 views

Origin of expression "orchestra seat"

Orchestra seats are mentioned in this answer but why are seats closest to the orchestra (or stage) called "orchestra seats"? They are certainly not in the orchestra. What is the history/...
Mikhail Katz's user avatar
4 votes
2 answers
474 views

Why is it "the Passion of Christ" and not "the Passions of Christ"?

I see that Google gives much more hits for The Passion of Christ (singular) than for the plural Passions, which in part is due to the movie of Mel Gibson with the same title. I also see that ...
fev's user avatar
  • 34.5k
28 votes
2 answers
3k views

At a 2:40 rate — slang for high speed

I've run across the phrase "at a 2:40 rate" in mid-19th Century sources. The context suggests that it means "at high speed," but I'd like to know the derivation. If it means a mile ...
Seth Masia's user avatar
19 votes
2 answers
2k views

What's so profound about deafness?

I can describe someone as profoundly deaf, but I don't seem to see the same adverb used to describe other conditions. This observation is supported by Google Books data. Why is deafness specifically ...
nialv7's user avatar
  • 309
2 votes
1 answer
272 views

Origin of "get back on terms"

I'm interested in finding the origin of the phrase "get back on terms". Commentators in the Tour de France and other big bike races use it all the time. I understand it in context; its ...
Barb Chamberlain 's user avatar
3 votes
4 answers
747 views

Where did the phrase "bring to the table" originate?

I couldn't find where the phrase "bring to the table" originated. Please share your thoughts and any information you have.
Juniper Scott's user avatar
7 votes
11 answers
3k views

Is blunt the right expression for directness?

A 'blunt' statement is when someone says things to the point and factual. But wouldn't 'sharp' (or some other word that implies frankness or sharpness) be a better word than 'blunt'? As blunt has the ...
Blue Clouds's user avatar
0 votes
0 answers
44 views

Origin of "another and a greater X"

Having recently happened across the fact that Greek ἄνωθεν anothen means "from above, higher," I'm now constantly when I see it thinking "another and a greater..." But where does ...
Quuxplusone's user avatar
  • 2,734
12 votes
3 answers
5k views

What might a pub named "the bull and last" likely be a reference to?

In the Kentish town/Highgate area are two pubs, The Bull and Last and The Bull and Gate. What might such pub names be references to?
TylerDurden's user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
288 views

In the Ozarks, why was a pregnant woman "with squirrel"?

Many blog posts online claim that in the Ozarks, being 'with squirrel' was once slang for 'being pregnant.' That is, if Sally is 'with squirrel', then Sally is pregnant. They mostly cite Vance ...
Heartspring's user avatar
  • 8,620
2 votes
3 answers
159 views

Origin of "Indent" as in inventory or request

I have recently moved to an institution run by the British government where staff use the term "indent" as a noun to refer to an inventory exercise done to work out what they need to buy. ...
Robbie Mallett's user avatar
2 votes
0 answers
128 views

Is there a connection between "Having a chip on one's shoulder" and "Knock it off"?

After reading the Wikipedia article I was wondering about a possible connection between these two idioms. Quoted from Wikipedia: Chip on shoulder This idiom traces its roots back to a custom that was ...
Andrew Levine's user avatar
3 votes
1 answer
444 views

Meaning and usage of "head(s) AND tails above"?

I've come across the expression "head(s) and tails above" (the rest, the competition etc; different from something like "can't make head or tail of something" i.e. can't figure it ...
دولة فلسطين's user avatar
0 votes
1 answer
468 views

When was the term Godi Media coined?

When was the term Godi Media coined? I know that godi means lap so, it kind of means 'lapdog media'. It is been used very frequently in India to describe the media supporting the ruling government. ...
Free Palestine's user avatar
4 votes
1 answer
1k views

Origin and evolution of the proverb "A closed mouth catches no flies"

"A closed mouth catches no flies" is a proverb, and the origins of proverbs are almost always strange and murky; I'm not really expecting a definitive answer here. Wiktionary attributes the ...
Heartspring's user avatar
  • 8,620
4 votes
2 answers
354 views

What is the origin of the phrase "in this day and age"?

I've searched but have not found any information about the origin of the phrase "in this day and age." Has anyone researched this? Why not write "today"?
snowbird240's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
14k views

Where does this proverb come from? “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together”

I am attempting to find the origin or source of this proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together” Most sources say that this is a translation of an African proverb,...
dmcgill50's user avatar
  • 288
4 votes
1 answer
2k views

Where and when did "booby prize" originate, and in what context did it become popular?

Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary (2003) has this entry for the term "booby prize": booby prize n (1889) 1 : an award for the poorest performance in a game or competition 2 : ...
Sven Yargs's user avatar
  • 165k
-1 votes
4 answers
2k views

What is the origin of "the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and x"?

What is the origin of "the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and x"? This sentence construction is common in American media as far as I can tell, with the 'x' being something that is ...
Nodal's user avatar
  • 17
0 votes
1 answer
40 views

must be vs must - Why use one over the other [closed]

What is the explanation for the construction of the phrases "it must be valid" and "it must exist" that are frequently used without much thought, and why haven't we created ...
Jimson James's user avatar
15 votes
3 answers
4k views

What is the origin of "in the zone" or what "zone" is this about?

The idiom "(to be) in the zone" as in to be "in a mental state of focused concentration on the performance of an activity, in which one dissociates oneself from distracting or ...
دولة فلسطين's user avatar
3 votes
2 answers
11k views

Origins of the phrase “the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second best time is now”?

Does anyone have good information on the first known usage or attribution of the phrase “the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, the second best time is now”, or similar concepts? According to ...
canary_in_the_data_mine's user avatar
0 votes
2 answers
257 views

How come "screw over" means "to cheat"?

I looked it up in Wiktionary, and I've found out that the term "screw over" means "to cheat someone, or ruin their chances in a game or other situation." I want to know how that ...
Latifa's user avatar
  • 1
8 votes
4 answers
2k views

What is round about round trips?

If one plans to travel from A to B and then, later, along the same route, from B to A, and one wishes to purchase a ticket for both components of the trip, one will, if one is a speaker of British ...
jsw29's user avatar
  • 8,644
3 votes
1 answer
1k views

At what point did most English speakers know the joke, "What time is it? Time for you to get a watch!"? [closed]

When is the first documented usage of the joke, "What time is it? Time for you to get a watch!"? At what point in history would most English-speakers know this joke, meaning, if you stopped ...
Reece365's user avatar
2 votes
3 answers
489 views

What's the origin of the idiom "fish for a compliment"

I have been searching for the origin of the phrase "fish for a compliment", but I couldn't find anything on the internet. Goose egg! The Free Dictionary defines the idiom fish for ...
Juniper Scott's user avatar
2 votes
1 answer
469 views

When did the expression "cat's breakfast" come in to usage as an example of a hodgepodge collection, assuming it ever did?

In CNN's January 8, 2023 video Retired general calls new armored vehicles US is sending Ukraine 'significant' after about 04:40 US Retired Major General (and analyst for CNN) James "Spider" ...
uhoh's user avatar
  • 877

1
2 3 4 5
14