Month: August 2016

boondoggle

Three definitions for this word:  — an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money  — attempt to deceive  — a braided cord worn by Boy Scouts as a neckerchief slide, hatband, or ornament One theory suggests that “boondoggle” came from the name of leather toys Daniel Boone supposedly made for his dog. But the only theory supported…

short takes

Today seems like a good day for interesting words and phrases I’ve come across lately, but which don’t have interesting histories. Or if they do, I couldn’t find them! Backstabber —  a trusted person who attacks when one’s back is turned. Cock of the walk — a man who acts as if he’s more important than other people. Settle some-one’s…

stuck his spoon in the wall

This phrase was totally new to me until I recently read it in a novel set in 1820. It had originated in the Royal Navy and British Army somewhat earlier, and meant that a man would have no need of a spoon at mess after he was dead. In the book I read, the phrase was used by a servant…

the whole kit and caboodle

In a recent email, a friend wrote this slang phrase as “kitten caboodle.” I like that a lot, but knew of the original version, and that motivated me to find out where it came from. It means everything, entirely, the whole collection. The phrase was first recorded in that form in 1884. Most of the similar phrases originate in the…

stone soup

Yesterday I mentioned to a friend that I needed to water my rock garden. She said, “So when the rocks ripen, are you going to make stone soup? Ha ha.” My education has obviously been neglected, because I’d never heard of stone soup. But Mr. Google soon remedied that. Stone Soup is an old folk tale in which hungry strangers…

time flies when you’re having fun

That means that sometimes time seems to pass surprisingly quickly. The idea was first expressed by Virgil (70-19 BCE), who wrote in the Aeneid: “Fugit inreparabile tempus” which translates as ‘Time is flying never to return.’ (Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman) It also appeared in England in 1386 in Chaucer’s Prologue to the…

one-armed bandit

This is a casino gambling machine with three or more reels which spin when a button is pushed, otherwise generally called a slot machine (because of the slots where coins are inserted). Slot machines are the most popular gambling method in casinos and constitute about 70 percent of the average US casino’s income. Slot machines are known as one-armed bandits…