Month: January 2017

mad as a hatter

This phrase is used in conversation to suggest (lightheartedly) that someone is quite crazy. A similar expression is “mad as a March hare.” Lewis Carroll’s ‘Hatter’ character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865, is our best-known mad hatter. The Hatter is not actually described as mad in the story — merely a participant at ‘a mad tea-party.’ But he’s not…

under the weather

Feeling slightly unwell, especially after a night of indulgence. This phrase has a maritime source, though there are differing explanations of it. During the days when ships were powered by sail, and now as well, the captain’s log documented everything that happened during the day. As sickness could spread rapidly on a ship, there were often times where the number…

pot calling the kettle black

Someone being hypocritical and chastising someone else for something they themselves are guilty of. This phrase originated in the medieval kitchen, when both pots and kettles were made from sturdy cast iron and both would get black with soot from the open fire. Its earliest appearance is in Thomas Shelton’s 1620 translation of the Spanish novel Don Quixote. The protagonist…

let the Devil take the hindmost

Everyone should look after their own interests, leaving those who cannot cope to whatever fate befalls them. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations lists “Every man for himself and the Devil take the hindmost” as an early 16th century proverb. It’s an old phrase, first recorded in print in a 1610 tragic/comic play called “Philaster, or Love Lies a-Bleeding,” by Beaumont…

God willing and the creek don’t rise

With good luck and no major problems, we can be successful. This phrase was supposedly created in the late 18th century by Benjamin Hawkins, a politician and Indian diplomat. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the US to return to Washington. In his response, he was said to write, “God willing and the Creek don’t…

speak with forked tongue

To deliberately say one thing and mean another, to be hypocritical.  In the longstanding tradition of many Native American tribes, “speaking with a forked tongue” meant lying, and once a person had been shown to speak with a forked tongue, he was no longer considered worthy of trust. As Tonto might have said, “White man say one thing, but mean…

buckshee

free of charge, gift, gratuity, small bribe I’ve heard the idea that buckshee is Cockney rhyming slang for “free.” However, this is incorrect. The word is Persian in origin, the word “baksheesh” meaning a gratuity or a tip to expedite service. The word has been in use since the mid-1700s, and much more widely adopted and popularized by the British…