Month: July 2016

living the life of Riley

The expression suggests an easy life without chores or responsibilities. The first printed citation of it appears to be from the Connecticut newspaper The Hartford Courant, December 1911, in a piece headed “Bullet Ends Life of Famous Wild Cow.” “The famous wild cow of Cromwell is no more. After “living the life of Riley” for over a year, successfully evading…

blackmail

Blackmail is an act, in some jurisdictions a criminal offence, involving threats to cause loss or damage to another unless a demand is met. Essentially, it is coercion, or extortion, involving threats to reveal either true or false information about a person to the public, a family member, or associates. It can also mean threats of physical harm. That is…

don’t take any wooden nickels

This is a bit of lighthearted folk advice — particularly meant for country folks heading into the big, bad city.  It means, “be careful and don’t get scammed.” It’s an American adage, in existence since the mid-1800s, thus preceding the actual use of wooden nickels as currency. Back then, some peddlers were known to mix wooden nutmeg and wooden cucumber…

jumping the broom

I’d never heard this expression until a friend mentioned it a few weeks ago, but it’s obviously had a long history. The phrase is an 18th-century idiom for a sham marriage or one of doubtful validity. The Marriage Act 1836 (Britain), which introduced civil marriage, was contemptuously referred to as the ‘Broomstick Marriage Act’ by those who felt that a…

my cup of tea

If something or someone is your “cup of tea,” you like it or them. It’s more commonly used in the negative form these days, as in, “he’s not my cup of tea.” The phrase has been in use since the late 1800s when the British started using the phrase “my cup of tea” to describe what or who they liked.…

cockeyed

This word has many meanings: crooked, askew, not level, awry, lopsided, tilted, off-center, misaligned, absurd, impractical, drunk. It can also mean to be afflicted with cross-eye, squint, or any other visible abnormality of the eyes. We use “cockeyed” to describe anything unrealistic, eccentric or flamboyant, from artistic expression to building code violations. Francis Grose defined it, in the 18th century,…

solitude again

Another proven benefit to solitude is development of self. Away from others, a person may discover their identity or work through personal problems without outside distractions. Solitude always provides time for contemplation if we want to use it that way. Isolation from other humans allows for a more complete connection to the natural world, which takes on the role of…