Month: December 2017

boxing phrases

Many of our colorful phrases come from the sport of boxing, but I had no idea how many there were until I started doing research. Here’s a list of the phrases that don’t have much of a story, other than that they originated in the ring. I’ll do the ones with stories as the weeks go by. Bare-knuckle: fierce (from…

more than one way to skin a cat

A problem generally has more than one solution. Or, there are always several ways to accomplish the same goal. In 1855, Charles Kingsley used one old British form in Westward Ho!. “There are more ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream.” Or, “choking it with butter.” For a dog, it was said, “there are more ways of…

got under my skin

To be intensely annoyed or irritated or obsessed with someone or something. This phrase could have arisen from the experience of having an insect burrow under the skin. Such insects are usually difficult to remove. Think ‘tick.’ The first use in print appears to be from 1866, in Bayard Taylor John Godfrey’s Fortunes; Related by Himself: “The idea [of writing…

skin someone alive

To ‘skin’ someone is gambling slang, and has been since the 1800s. It means to win all of a player’s money. From this comes the word ‘skint,’ which means ‘broke’ and ‘skinflint’ to refer to a loan shark. To ‘strip’ someone means that not only did you win all their money, but their clothes as well. Or perhaps it was…

that’s water under the bridge

Something is over and done with; you can’t change the past. This idiom is akin to the expression: time stands still for no one. It is also akin to and derives from an ancient Greek expression. Heraclitus, a philosopher who lived during the 4th and 5th centuries BCE, coined the phrase, “You cannot step twice in the same river.” The…

fed up to the back teeth

‘To the back teeth’ is an intensifier for the original phrase, ‘fed up,’ and it means extremely annoyed, unhappy, or dissatisfied. I’ve always heard it in the sense of having had more than enough of a person or a situation, and to be bored with or sick of whoever or whatever it is. People on the Wet Coast often get…

more teeth

The five ‘teeth’ idioms we covered last time aren’t the only ones, of course. The most popular idioms in the language have to do with the human body, and with the animals and plants that we used to deal with all the time in everyday life. Here are more. 6. Lie through your teeth. This usually means a lie told…