Month: March 2018

third degree

This phrase has several meanings. For mystery readers, it means long and intense questioning by police to obtain information or a confession. For the medical profession, it refers to burns of the most severe kind, affecting tissue below the skin. For lawyers, it means the least serious category of a crime, especially murder. The ‘third degree’ is sometimes a euphemism…

jury-rigged

Briefly, jury-rigged means something was assembled or repaired quickly with the materials on hand. Jerry-built means it was cheaply built. Jerry-rigged is a combination of these two words. Jerry-rigged is a relatively new word. Many people consider it to be an incorrect version of jury-rigged, but it’s widely used in everyday speech. Although ‘jury-rigged’ is rooted in the nautical world,…

gild the lily

The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition: “to paint (or to gild) the lily: to embellish excessively, to add ornament where none is needed.” The phrase is a misquotation from Shakespeare’s King John (1595): Therefore, to be possess’d with double pomp, To guard a title that was rich before, To gild refined gold, to paint the lily, To throw a…

whippersnapper

A young, insignificant, and inexperienced person considered to be presumptuous, impertinent, or overconfident. We don’t often hear the term ‘whippersnapper’ in conversation now, and my memory of it is probably from the movies, where some grumpy old man complained about young whippersnappers who didn’t know how to behave themselves. The word comes originally from idle young men in the habit…