Month: October 2021

doozy

“Doozy” means an extraordinary one of its kind, whether good or bad. A rollercoaster may offer a doozy of a ride, and you can have a doozy of a headache. Lots of people think the word doozy comes from Duesenberg, the name of a now-defunct car company that some say produced the finest American cars ever. The vehicles were known…

elbow grease

“Elbow grease” means hard work, especially vigorous physical labor or effort. The phrase is often applied to tasks like scrubbing a sink or sawing wood — your elbow, of course, bending and straightening in turn. It has long been said that the best sort of furniture polish is “elbow-grease,” to mean there is no substitute for hard rubbing to create…

keep your eyes peeled

“Keep your eyes peeled” means to keep your eyes wide open, to keep a sharp lookout, to stay alert. One form of this expression, “keep your eyes skinned” was used on the frontier and  recorded in 1833, in  the Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Frederickson: “I wish I may be shot if I don’t think you had…

crackpot

A “crackpot” is a person with illogical, senseless, or wild ideas; an eccentric, a crank. Some people might assume the word is related to drugs because crack and pot are both slang words for different drugs. However, it is actually is quite old and comes from another source entirely. It developed from the combination of cracked and pot, and their…

dibs

The Oxford English Dictionary lists the following meanings of the word dibs: —A game played by children (also called dibbs, or dibstones) with pebbles or the knucklebones of sheep; also the name of the play pieces (late 1600s) —A children’s word to make first claim on something (1907) —A counter used in card games as a substitute for money —A…

October word herd

Lose face — to be humiliated, to lose one’s reputation, to suffer public disgrace. In this context, “face” means: prestige, dignity, honor, respect, status. It could be also defined as how one appears, or wishes to appear, to friends, family, and business associates. The phrase “lose face” began as a translation of the Chinese phrase tiu lien. To “save face”…

doggerel

“Doggerel” is poetry irregular in rhythm and in rhyme, often deliberately for comic effect. Alternatively, it can mean verse which has a monotonous rhythm, easy rhyme, and trivial meaning. The word is derived from the Middle English dogerel, meaning nonsense and probably related to the idea of something only fit for a dog. In English it has been used as…

chew the scenery

“Chew the scenery” means to overact, or be melodramatic. In other words, “ham it up.” Brewer’s Twentieth Century Phrase and Fable says the phrase was invented by the New York columnist and wit Dorothy Parker in one of her scathing reviews around 1930. But it’s older than that. There is a much earlier example in the Rocky Mountain News of…

chitchat

“Chat” is casual small talk or gossip. “Chitchat” is the same, for it’s simply a reduplication of chat. It’s something humans obviously love to do because it has so many synonyms. Here are a few: cackle, chin music, chin wag, gab, gossip, jangle, jaw, palaver, patter, rap, schmooze, small talk, chatter, natter, and yatter. “Chatter” has been in use as…