Month: December 2016

peter out

to diminish gradually and stop; dwindle to nothing, to tire; to exhaust  The earliest known use of “peter” to mean “dwindle” relates to the mining industry in the USA in the mid 19th century, and it’s reasonable to suppose that’s where it originated. The earliest use of the word in that context appears in a piece from the Wisconsin newspaper…

money words

Cold cash (also “cold, hard cash”) means money immediately available. The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary lists “cold cash” as American English, and “hard cash” as British English. Perhaps “cold hard cash” is Canadian? The phrase may arise from the idea that coins are cold and hard. In any case, coins are harder than paper money or other instruments of payment.…

mind your Ps and Qs

This is an English expression meaning “mind your language” or “be on your best behavior.” The equivalent in America would be “on your toes.” Ps and Qs are simply the plurals of the letters P and Q. There are different ways of spelling these — either upper-case or lower-case and either with or without an apostrophe. I’ve picked “Ps and…

teetotaler

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “teetotaler” as: “One who abstains (especially one who pledges himself to abstain) from the use of any intoxicating liquor.” The teetotalism movement was started in England in the early 19th century. The Preston Temperance Society was founded in 1833 by Joseph Livesey, who was to become a leader of the temperance movement and the author…

screaming out of frustration

Something different for today, because this phrase has no venerable “history.” Put another way, it says you’re so frustrated about something that you want to scream. Or pound the wall. Or have a drink. Anything to relieve your stress. Most sites I visited offered a variety of ways to deal with frustration. However, I did come across something I’d never heard…

what goes around, comes around

A proverb meaning that a person’s actions (good or bad) will often have consequences for that person. In other words, wrongdoing will result in comeuppance or retribution.  Or in blunt but accurate Internet terms: Karma’s a bitch. “What goes around comes around” is the basic understanding of how karma, supposedly the law of cause and effect, works. Depending on one’s…

honeymoon

The word comes from the Old English “hony moone.” Hony, a reference to honey, refers to the “indefinite period of tenderness and pleasure experienced by a newly wed couple,” and how sweet the new marriage is. Moone, meanwhile, refers to the fleeting amount of time that sweetness would last. While honeymoon has a positive connotation today, it was first used…