Month: August 2020

hang in there

“Hang in there” is a slang expression meaning “Keep on trying! Stick with it!” We use this expression to encourage someone going through a tough time. It became popular in the 1970s due to a popular poster that bore the phrase. The poster featured a Siamese cat hanging from a bamboo pole, looking determined to stay there. The original photograph…

green thumb

“Green thumb” is used to describe someone’s skill at gardening or growing plants. “Green fingers” first appeared in the 1930s, followed about ten years later by “green thumb.” As to how one’s thumb or fingers get green, there seem to be several theories. It may come from the fact that algae growing on the outside of earthenware pots will stain…

thumbs up

“Thumbs up” is a thumb signal, a common hand gesture achieved by a closed fist held with the thumb extended upward in approval or downward in disapproval. The source of the thumb gesture is not certain but a number of origins have been proposed. According to Anthony Corbeill, a classical studies professor who extensively researched the practice, “thumbs up” in…

weasel words

“Weasel words” is an expression describing words meant to make a statement sound more legitimate and impressive but which are in fact meaningless. Weasel words give the impression of taking a firm position while avoiding commitment to any specific claim. Weasel words are often sloppy intensifiers: significantly, substantially, reasonable, meaningful, compelling, undue, clearly, obviously, manifestly, if practicable, rather, duly, virtually,…

poppycock

“Poppycock” is nonsense, rubbish, empty prattle, or claptrap, and was, in the last century, often used as an exclamation of disagreement. The word originated around 1852, in the US, probably introduced by Dutch immigrants from the Dutch word poppekak and soon morphed into “poppycock.” An oft-repeated theory is that the word came from the Dutch word pappekak, meaning “soft excrement,”…

dead reckoning

From the Oxford English Dictionary, “dead reckoning” means “The estimation of a ship’s position from the distance run by the log and the courses steered by the compass, with corrections for current, leeway, etc., but without astronomical observations.” The explanation applies to both ships and aircraft.  Wikipedia tells me that, “Dead reckoning is subject to cumulative errors. Advances in navigational…

bafflegab

“Bafflegab” means confusing, bureaucratic, incomprehensible jargon; gobbledegook, or pretentious verbiage. And yes, we know where this one came from, thanks to World Wide Words. On January 19, 1952, the Salt Lake Tribune reported that an award in the form of a plaque had been presented to Milton A Smith, to honor his creation of the new and invaluable word. Mr.…

butter someone up

“To butter someone up” is to flatter or be nice to someone in order to get something from them. “Flatter” is a synonym, since it means to seek a favor by excessive praise. There are two possible origins of this idiom. Some people believe that it comes from actually spreading smooth, creamy butter on a slice of bread which can…

tommyrot and guff

“Tommyrot” means foolishness, twaddle, or nonsense, pretentious or silly talk or writing. In 1700s military English, “tommy” was a nickname for the poor-quality bread doled out to soldiers as part of their rations. “Tommy-rot” was rotten bread, and, because it was worthless, spoiled beyond use, eventually came to mean “nonsense” in Victorian slang. The Oxford English Dictionary says it was…