Month: November 2019

chasing rainbows

“Chasing rainbows” means to pursue a “useless quest,” and originated at least as early as 1450.  The idea of the elusive, evasive rainbow, always tantalizingly one step ahead of us but never within reach, is an interesting one. It came from old English literature and is frequently used. In fact, a film made in 1930 was named after the common…

quid pro quo

Quid pro quo is Latin, literally “something for something, one thing for another.”  As we use it today, it means a favor or advantage granted or expected in return for something, or an exchange of goods or services, in which one transfer is contingent upon the other. For example, “The pardon was a quid pro quo for their help in…

forty winks

If you’re taking “forty winks,” you’re having a nap. The implication is that you’re lying in the closed-eye position, the “extended wink” assumed during sleep, but that you don’t fall into a deep sleep. The phrase “forty winks” can be traced back to Dr. Kitchiner’s 1821 self-help guide, The Art of Invigorating and Prolonging Life. In a November 1821 issue…

resting on your laurels

If you’re resting on your laurels in today’s world, it means you’re satisfied with your past success and consider further effort unnecessary. The idea of laurel leaves being used to celebrate achievement originated with the leaders and athletic stars of ancient Greece. In Hellenic times, laurel leaves were closely tied to Apollo, the god of music, prophecy and poetry. Apollo…

diehard

A “diehard” is a person who strongly opposes change or continues to support something in spite of opposition. Such a person may hold stubbornly to a minority view, in defiance of the circumstances. Some synonyms: hard-core, traditionalist, steadfast,  inflexible, uncompromising, unyielding, indomitable, rigid, set in one’s ways. While the word typically refers to someone with a strong dedication to a…

running amok

“Running amok” is used to describe wild or erratic behavior, going crazy. Wikipedia describes “running amok” as an episode of sudden, savage violence against people usually by a single individual following a period of brooding, that has traditionally been regarded as occurring especially in Malay culture but is now increasingly viewed as psychopathological behavior. “Amok” first appeared in English in…

by and large

“By and large” now means: on the whole; generally speaking; all things considered. The phrase is nautical in origin, used as far back as the 1500s, and meant sailing “alternately close-hauled and not close-hauled.” The earliest known reference to “by and large” in print is from Samuel Sturmy, in The Mariners Magazine, 1669. When the wind is blowing from behind…