Month: September 2015

red sky at morning

The common phrase “Red sky at morning” is a line from an ancient rhyme often repeated by mariners: Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky at morning, sailors take warning; The rhyme has been a rule of thumb for weather forecasting during the past two millennia. It is based on the reddish glow of the morning or evening sky,…

flash in the pan

This phrase may refer to a project or  person that enjoys only short-lived success. Or it may mean something which has a showy beginning but fails to deliver anything of value.  In the mid 16th century, ‘flash’ had the sense of ‘to give off a sudden burst of light or flame.’ Since 1913, it has also been used to mean…

hightail

To go as fast as possible, especially when fleeing. Also ‘bolt for freedom,’ or ‘skedaddle,’ or ‘book it outta here.’ As in my mom used to say, “You had better hightail it home right now.” This expression, according to some, was originally used to describe the way a herd of mustangs break and race away when ‘spooked’ or frightened by the…

happy camper

A friend emailed to say she was “not a happy camper.” Then said, “I wonder where that phrase came from.” I couldn’t find a specific source, but the phrase has been around for a while, and means, “a happy person.” More often it seems to be used with “not” to describe unhappiness. An online source suggested that the phrase originated…

buy the farm

To die, particularly in an accident or military action. This phrase originated in the 20th century and all early references relate to the US military. This example from 1943 isn’t the earliest, but it does make the meaning explicit. It’s from Cyril Ward-Jackson’s It’s a piece of cake; or R.A.F. slang made easy: “He’s bought it, he is dead –…

get a kick out of

To enjoy something very much. For example, “I get a kick out of horror movies.” Or “I get a real kick out of shopping for groceries early on Sunday morning.” (Oh, yeah?) I Get a Kick out of You is a song by Cole Porter, which was first sung in the 1934 Broadway musical Anything Goes, and then in the…

mid-week roundup

First of all, here is a new word: “wrabble” A friend coined this one to describe the chatty emails we exchange, being a combination of ‘babble’ and ‘write.’ We do babble at one another, but since she lives on the other side of the continent, we write our babbling. It’s a verb, of course, so we wrabble, we are wrabbling,…