kick the bucket

This is an English idiom, a euphemistic term meaning ‘to die.’ Its earliest appearance in print is in the Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1785). A common theory is that the idiom refers to hanging, as a method of either execution or suicide. The Oxford English Dictionary regards this as merely speculative, but a report in a Bath newspaper on…

to beat the band

In a very energetic or forceful manner, for example, “Talking away to beat the band.” Also, to the greatest possible degree, for example, “The wind is blowing to beat the band.” Something being done thoroughly or furiously. The use of “to beat” meaning “to surpass” is simply a modern use of “to beat” in its older military sense meaning “to…

get off your high horse

Telling someone to stop behaving in an overbearing manner, or acting self-righteous or smugly superior, as if they know more, are better, or claim a higher moral ground than everyone else. The first references to high horses were literal: ‘high’ or ‘great’ horses were very large. John Wyclif wrote of them in English Works, circa 1380, so the origin of…

eat like a horse

To eat large amounts of food. A full-grown horse can eat up to 2% of its body weight per day, amounting to about 20 pounds of food. But, to be fair to the horse, an animal much bigger than one of us, it must eat a lot of grass or straw to get the same nourishment as a human might…

how do you like them apples?

The phrase is a rhetorical question. It’s used to express bemusement or vexation, or gloating when someone turns the tables on someone else. It can also be directed mockingly at someone who has received surprising information, ridiculing the situation, and has overtones of challenge and mild disrespect.    It has been suggested that the phrase originated in World War I. It…

horse of a different color

Another matter entirely from the subject at hand, something else.  The phrase may have originated with real horses. Pure-breds are registered at birth and the information on the registrations includes their color. When a horse is sold, the registration is also transferred. Occasionally, the color recorded on the registration doesn’t match the actual color of the horse.  Horses’ coats do…

a piece of work

This interesting phrase has changed its meaning over the years. Back in 1473, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it simply meant a product or something manufactured. By 1533, it was also being used to mean a difficult undertaking or task. Shakespeare used it in a very positive way in Hamlet (1604): “What a piece of work is a man,…