put a sock in it

If  you say, “Put a sock in it,” you’re telling someone to be quiet. This phrase originated in the early 1900s and is generally used when someone is annoying others by being noisy. Imagine the pleasure of stuffing a sock in that person’s mouth.  One of the earliest examples of it to appear in print is a definition of the…

computer cookie

Last Sunday I wrote about “smart cookies” and a friend said, “But what about computer cookies?” So, here we go. When you visit a website, the website sends the cookie to your computer, which stores it in a file inside your web browser. The term “cookie” was coined by web-browser programmer Lou Montulli in 1994. He derived it from the…

in dire straits

If you’re “in dire straits,” you’re in desperate trouble or impending danger. “Dire” first appears in English, as a mutation from Latin dirus, in the mid-1500s, and it became popular as a useful adjective to mean extremely serious. “Straits” are narrow passages of water which connect two larger bodies of water. Navigating straits can be perilous. In the mid-1500s again,…

smart cookie

The word “cookie” comes from the Dutch word koekje, which means “little cake,” according to The New Food Lover’s Companion.  The first cookie-like “cakes” were thought to have originated in 7th century Persia, one of the earliest countries where sugar was cultivated.     Later, “cookie” became a slang word, and has been used since 1920, according to the Online…

rubberneck

To “rubberneck,” as a verb, means to look about or stare with exaggerated curiosity, craning one’s neck so as to get a better view. As a noun, “rubberneck” has been described as a human trait that is associated with morbid curiosity. The Oxford English Dictionary lists rubberneck as a US slang noun, though more often the noun form is rendered…

Short takes

Here are some interesting short phrases and words to fire up your imagination. Camaraderie — a cordial feeling among comrades (1840 French: camaraderie) Deliciate — an obsolete word meaning to delight oneself, to feast and revel Dogging it — working slowly or just pretending to work Five will get you ten — in all likelihood; chances are good that: from…

flummery

My friend Cathy suggested “flummery” as another word for baloney. And yes, that is one definition for it, but it’s also a food made from the husks of oats steeped in water, called in Scotland sowens, which developed into a sweet dessert popular in the British Isles.  The name is derived from the Welsh word for a similar dish made…

hang in there

“Hang in there” is a slang expression meaning “Keep on trying! Stick with it!” We use this expression to encourage someone going through a tough time. It became popular in the 1970s due to a popular poster that bore the phrase. The poster featured a Siamese cat hanging from a bamboo pole, looking determined to stay there. The original photograph…

green thumb

“Green thumb” is used to describe someone’s skill at gardening or growing plants. “Green fingers” first appeared in the 1930s, followed about ten years later by “green thumb.” As to how one’s thumb or fingers get green, there seem to be several theories. It may come from the fact that algae growing on the outside of earthenware pots will stain…

thumbs up

“Thumbs up” is a thumb signal, a common hand gesture achieved by a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward in approval or downward in disapproval. The source of the thumb gesture is not certain but a number of origins have been proposed. According to Anthony Corbeill, a classical studies professor who extensively researched the practice, “thumbs up” in…