Month: July 2019

short takes

Another little collection of familiar sayings that are pretty much self-explanatory and which don’t have any interesting history, either ancient or modern: Paddle your own canoe — be independent and decide your own fate Cut from the same cloth — people or items closely resembling one another Make waves — cause trouble Talk is cheap — easier to talk about…

beside yourself

If you’re “beside yourself,” whether it’s with sorrow, joy, or rage, you’re “outside yourself” or “out of your mind.”  The phrase “beside oneself” appeared at about the same time (1400s) as “out of one’s mind,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “having lost control of one’s mental faculties; insane, deranged, delirious.” There are many other synonyms for being beside…

ants in your pants

If you have “ants in your pants,” that means you’re fidgeting or “antsy.”  If you’re sitting on the ground at a picnic, you could literally have ants in your pants, which would certainly make you fidget and, very likely, jump up and remove those pants. The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (1985) says the phrase means “excessively restless or…

hornswoggle

“Hornswoggle” means to bamboozle, bluff, deceive, delude, dupe, fool, hoodwink, trick, or swindle and is first recorded in the USA in the 1800s. A character in Jack London’s The Valley of the Moon (1913) bitterly complains, “We’re hornswoggled. We’re backed to a standstill. We’re double-crossed to a fare-you-well.” A few years later, P. G. Wodehouse used it in Little Warrior:…

butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth

This phrase means to be prim and proper, or demure and insincere, with a cool demeanor, the cool demeanor being the most important part. It is an old saying, and was included as a proverb in John Heywood’s collection of 1546. The saying is not easy to understand, since in these modern days of refrigerators, you could put butter in…