Month: February 2017

bunny hug

The Saskatchewan nickname for a hooded sweatshirt, with a pocket in front, and no zipper.  It’s similar to a “cotton popover” and a “kangaroo sweatshirt.” Bunny populations in Saskatchewan were high back in the 50’s and 60’s, and the bunnies annoyed farmers by munching on crops. The government was persuaded to put a bounty on bunnies, the same as they…

barking up the wrong tree

If you are “barking up the wrong tree,” you’re wasting your time and energy by making the wrong assumption, making the wrong choice, or asking the wrong person.  The allusion is to hunting dogs barking at the bottom of trees where they mistakenly think their quarry is hiding. The earliest known printed citation is in James Kirke Paulding’s Westward Ho!,…

not on your Nelly

This, apparently, is Cockney rhyming slang for “not on your life” or “not bloody likely.” However, there are two versions. In the first one, the slang goes this way: Nelly rhymes with smelly, which leads to smelly breath, breath leads to breathing to keep alive, leading to “not on your life.” In the other, Nelly is short for “Nelly duff,”…

extend the olive branch

To extend the olive branch means trying to make peace with an enemy or someone with whom you have disagreed. Olive branches as symbols of peace or victory began in ancient Greece and Rome. In Greek mythology, Athena competed with Poseidon for possession of Athens. Poseidon claimed possession by thrusting his trident into the Acropolis, where a well of sea-water…

tongue in cheek

The tongue-in-cheek figure of speech is used to imply that because what one is saying or writing is ironic or flippant, and it should not be taken at face value.  The phrase was originally meant to express contempt. For example, in Tobias Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random, published in 1748, Mr. Smollett is taking a coach to Bath and…

know the ropes

Someone who “knows the ropes” is experienced, and understands how to do whatever it is  they are doing. “Showing someone the ropes” means to explain to them how something is done. This phrase may have originated in the golden age of sailing, when understanding how to handle the ropes necessary to operate a ship’s sails was an essential nautical skill.…

knight in shining armor

A knight in shining armor is a heroic, idealized male who typically comes to the rescue of a female in a difficult situation. The phrase is sometimes used in more cynical works to indicate a wide-eyed idealist. The phrase originated in the days of Old England, when popular imagination conjures up images of chivalry and of gallant knights saving fair…

short takes

What can’t be cured must be endured — there is no point complaining about what is unavoidable. In use since 1377. Smidgen — a very small amount, as in tad, dash, pinch, and drop. Anything between 1/25th and 1/48th of a teaspoon. Every last (one) — a variant of “each and every one,” since the late 1800s Snickerdoodle — a…