Month: April 2021

out of sorts

If you’re “out of sorts,” you’re a bit unwell, in low spirits, irritable, not your usual self. A similar phrase is “out of kilter.” Since the 1600s “sorts” has been used by typographers to name the metal characters in their boxes of type, so called because they have been arranged, or sorted, each into its own compartment, with all of…

short stack four

Chop chop — hurry! Originated in British-occupied south China (1830s) Dough head — stupid, a blockhead, a fool, (early 1800s US) Fink — an unpleasant or contemptible person, strikebreaker, informer Flummadiddle — trash, bauble, frill, useless (1840s) Fussbudget — fussy about unimportant things; Lucy from “Peanuts” Gizmo — a gadget whose real name is unknown or forgotten Highfalutin — pretentious,…

lalochezia

lalochezia “Lalochezia” (pronounced lal-o-kee-zia) means to use vulgar or foul language to relieve stress or pain. The word is formed from two Greek roots: “Lalo-” meaning “speech” and “chesia” meaning “to defecate.” If you stub your toe, letting it all out by swearing increases your heart rate and reduces the pain felt. Also, swearing has been found to reduce stress…

away with the fairies

If you’re “away with the fairies,” you’re in a dream-world, not facing reality. This phrase came from the Scots/Irish Gaelic traditional folk myths, including a belief in the existence of “the little people.” Irish folklore tells of the Sidhe, a supernatural, dominant clan of fairies. The stories involve the Sidhe appearing from some hidden place, either their underground lair or…

lying

lying There’s nothing unusual about the word “lying” but a delightful article by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary discusses words which mean almost the same thing. As a lover of words, I offer it here in abbreviated form. Palter: to act insincerely or deceitfullyThe word has had various meanings but, now, according to the Harvard Gazette, “Paltering is when a communicator says…

the seventh word herd

New York minute — a very short time: a moment, an instant, a flash, a nanosecond. As Johnny Carson once said, it’s the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn. It seems to have originated in Texas around 1967 and refers to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers’ lives.…

burn the midnight oil

To “burn the midnight oil” means to work late into the night. Originally this was by the light of an oil lamp or candle. Now that electricity has been invented, the phrase is simply figurative. The first instance of “the midnight oil” in print appears to be from the English author Francis Quarles. in Emblemes, 1635: “Wee spend our mid-day…

cockpit

A “cockpit” can be one of several things:   — a space, often enclosed, in the forward fuselage of an airplane containing the flying controls, instrument panel, and seats for the pilot and copilot or flight crew  — a sunken, open area, generally in the after part of a small vessel, such as a yacht, providing space for the pilot, part…