Month: July 2017

Short stuff

Larger than life — exceedingly imposing, impressive, or memorable Take a fancy to — take a shine to, become fond of Rare as hen’s teeth — exceptionally rare or nonexistent [Mid-1800s] Snap to it! — hurry up! Knee-high to a grasshopper — very small or young [USA 1814] That’ll put hair on your chest — make you stronger Give the…

spoonerism

A spoonerism is an accidental transposition of the initial sounds, or other parts, of two or more words. For example, ‘you have hissed the mystery lectures,’ rather than ‘you have missed the history lectures.’ This type of error is named after the Reverend Spooner (1844–1930), Warden of New College, Oxford, who was notoriously prone to this mistake. The term “Spoonerism”…

eggcorn

An eggcorn is a particular kind of language error. Once described as a “slip of the ear,” an eggcorn is the written version of a plausible mishearing of a usual phrase or word. The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original, but plausible in the same context, such as “old-timers’ disease” for “Alzheimer’s disease.” And, for…

dressed to the nines

“To the nines” is an idiom meaning “to perfection” or “to the highest degree,” thus, “dressed to the nines” means to dress flamboyantly or smartly. Several theories link the origin of the phrase to clothing. One has it that tailors used nine yards of material to make a suit. But, however many yards of material might be used, that says…

colder than a witch’s tit

The phrase is a metaphor for extreme cold, just as “hotter than the hinges of hell” is a metaphor for high temperatures. Another version is “colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra.” Witches were once imagined as old hags with wrinkly skin and icy blood. So the phrase “colder than a witch’s tit” became common during very cold…

bang for the buck

An idiom meaning getting value for your money or work. Sometimes the phrase is used to mean “a better value for the money spent.” The first citation of the phrase in print appears to be an advertisement in Metals and Plastics Publications, 1940. No advertiser would use a colloquial expression in an ad unless it was understandable to his audience,…