Month: October 2020

bookworm

“Bookworm” is a general name for any insect that is said to bore through books. It’s also used to describe someone who loves to read books. The damage to books that is commonly attributed to “bookworms” is, in truth, not caused by any species of worm. Usually responsible are the larvae of various types of insects including beetles, moths and…

eight to the bar

“Eight to the bar” is a 30s and 40s phrase used on uptempo dance tunes, as a command to the rhythm section to emphasize 8 beats to every bar of music, making it feel like double-time (as opposed to 4 beats to a bar).  Calling for eight to the bar meant something like, “Speed up the music. Let’s dance!” though…

putting lipstick on a pig

This rhetorical expression, “putting lipstick on a pig,” means you can dress something up but that doesn’t change its essential nature. The phrase “lipstick on a pig” seems to have been coined in the 1900s, but the concept may be older. For example, “You can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear” seems to have been in use by…

sesquipedalian

“Sesquipedalian” means polysyllabic, long-winded, bombastic, grandiloquent, or florid. Antonyms are: monosyllabic, laconic, brief, brachysyllabic, terse. The first known use of sesquipedalian was in 1656. The word “sesquipedalian” is, in fact, sesquipedalian. Horace, the Roman poet and satirist, was merely being gently ironic when he cautioned young poets against using sesquipedalia verba –-“words a foot and a half long”– in his…

tie one on

To “tie one on” means to get drunk. In The Wordsworth Book of Euphemisms, Eric Partridge suggests that this expression is derived from “hang one on” (circa 1935), which originated in the US. It is certainly clear that a “hangover” is the miserable memento of having hung or tied one on. Some sites claim that “tie one on” dates back…