cute as a button

Why is a button cute? Apparently, because it’s small. “Cute as a button” has been used since the 1800s to mean delightful, charming, and attractive, but always with the connotation of being small. The word “cute” itself is a clipped form of “acute,” meaning sharp or clever. The phrase is used only for small people or animals, such as children…

field day

A “field day” is a day of excitement or the opportunity to do a lot of something one wants to do rather than the usual routine stuff. Although the phrase makes me think of kids released from their school desks to participate in sports and athletic contests, it’s mostly used today by news media criticizing someone. “The press is going…

batten down the hatches

When you “batten down the hatches,” you’re preparing for trouble. In this phrase, ‘hatch’ means the opening in the deck of a ship. More formally called hatchways, these openings were commonplace on sailing ships and were normally either open or covered with a wooden grating to allow for ventilation of the lower decks. When bad weather was forecast, the hatches…

thrown under the bus

This idiom means to cause another person suffering in order to save oneself or gain personal advantage. It means the brutal sacrifice of a loyal teammate for often small or minor advantage. It offers a violent image of callously disposing of someone.  The phrase can be replaced by using the terms betrayal, double-crossing, duping, bamboozling, hanging out to dry or…

Walking the Windsong

I’ve just published a collection of short stories and poems called “Walking the Windsong.” Here’s the back page blurb: The seventeen stories and ten poems in this book contain a touch of mystery, a touch of fantasy, a touch of science fiction and more than a touch of humor. At the same time, some of these timeless stories touch, in…

plum duff

“Plum duff” is a slang term for plum pudding, which originated in medieval England, and is traditionally served as part of Christmas dinner.  In spite of the name, the pudding contains no actual plums. In pre-Victorian times, the word “plums” meant raisins. The pudding is composed of dried fruits held together by egg and suet, treacle or molasses, and flavored…

posh

“Posh” means rich, aristocratic, wealthy, loaded, fancy, elegant, toffee-nosed, swanky, well-off, or well-to-do.  A very popular urban myth says that “posh” originated from the phrase “Port Out Starboard Home.” It sounds plausible, but a good many language experts, including the Oxford and Merriam-Webster Dictionaries, Phrases (a British website specializing in phrases) and Snopes, all say it’s nonsense. When you’ve read…