Some words have a history that takes merely one line. Others take a paragraph, which is too short for an article. So I’ve compromised by offering a herd of words. And here they are!
This word describes a person who places too much emphasis on trivial or minor details and requires a particularly precise or careful approach. In a word, fussy. “Persnickety”was first documented in English in the late 1800s as an alteration of pernickety, a word with the same meaning. Some say pernickety might be from a child’s version of “particular.” But no one knows for sure.
in the same boat:
This phrase means to have the same problem as other people. It was first used by ancient Greeks when speaking about the risks that all passengers in a small boat at sea had to face together. The metaphor clearly alludes to the fact that one cannot get off a boat once it is under way and to the image of people who are together in a boat sharing the same fate, whether they choose to or not.
If you surprise or greatly astonish someone, you “flabbergast” them. The British comedian Frankie Howard used to say in mock astonishment, “I’m flabbergasted — never has my flabber been so gasted!” We don’t know the word’s origin. It was mentioned in 1772, in a magazine article that year as a new vogue word, of uncertain origin. It may have come from some dialect for, in 1823, “flabbergast” was noted as a Sussex word, perhaps combining flabby and aghast. But why? The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.
flabbergasted: adj. Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.
“Ballpark figure” means a rough estimate, an acceptable range of approximation. These numerical estimates were first called, “in the ballpark.” For example, when offering figures, “I hope that’s in the ballpark (within a particular range or area).” The term has an odd connection to baseball given the most figures having to do with the game (such as batting averages and earned run averages) are relentlessly precise. “In the same ballpark” has come to mean within the same scope or range.
grease a palm:
“Grease a palm” means to pay a bribe or make an illegal payment in return for special favors and/or influence. “If we want to get our products into Mexico, we’ll have to grease a few palms.” The word “grease” is used in the sense of “enrich.” The phrase originated in Britain in the 1500s and has been used since it was first coined almost 500 years ago. It evolved from the expression “grease the wheels” since wheels required grease in order to turn smoothly without squeaking and getting stuck.