Month: December 2021

goldbrick

As a noun, a “goldbrick” is a worthless brick that appears to be made of gold. As a verb, “goldbrick” means a person who shirks assigned work. The original “gold brick” was of pure gold metal, melted and molded into brick form for convenience in handling. But, around the mid-1800s, some Western promoters of mining properties began to create lead…

high on the hog

Living “high on the hog” means enjoying affluence and luxury. One might assume that this phrase originated hundreds of years ago. It’s easy to picture nobility dining on roasted suckling pig or boar, while the peasants made do with pig’s feet. However, the phrase is not found in print until the 1900s in the US. The word “high,” however, has…

hoi polloi

“Hoi polloi” comes from Greek, and means, literally, “the many” or “the people.” In English, it has a negative connotation to signify the masses, the plebeians, the rabble, the riffraff, and the proles (proletariat). In his Funeral Oration, as mentioned in Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War, Pericles uses the phrase in a positive way when praising the Athenian democracy,…

Hokey-Pokey

“Hokey-Pokey” means a group circle dance with a synchronized shaking of the limbs in turn, accompanied by a simple song. It is also used to mean deception or trickery. Here’s the ‘simple song,’ which seems to symbolize having a good time: “You put your right foot in, You put your right foot out, You put your right foot in, And…

hoity-toity

“Hoity-toity” means haughty or snobbish, pretentiously self-important, or pompous. As with many reduplicated phrases, one word carries an existing meaning and the other is present for emphasis. Originally, the word meant “frolicsome, romping, giddy, flighty,” but that meaning has now almost completely died out. The frivolousness/riotousness meaning was first recorded in Sir Roger L’Estrange’s 1668 translation of The visions of…

the full monte

“The full monty” has two meanings: — the full amount expected, desired, or possible — striptease performance involving full nudity, especially by a man The phrase, also spelled “full Monty,” is British slang of uncertain origin. It means “everything which is necessary, appropriate or possible; the works.” Similar North American phrases include “the whole kit and caboodle,” “the whole nine…

funny bone

The “funny bone” is that part of the elbow over which the ulnar nerve passes. A knock on the funny bone may cause numbness and pain along the forearm and hand. “Funny bone” is also an idiom meaning a person’s sense of humor. When something tickles your funny bone it makes you laugh or amuses you. The phrase has been…

gargoyle

A “gargoyle” is a decorative water spout in the form of a grotesque human or animal. The oldest gargoyle-like creation is a 13,000-year-old stone crocodile discovered in Turkey. In architecture, a gargoyle is made with a spout designed to carry water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thus preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls…

gimmick

A “gimmick” is a novel device or idea designed primarily to attract attention or increase appeal, but often with little intrinsic value. When applied to retail marketing, it is a unique or quirky feature designed to make a product or service “stand out” from its competitors. We don’t know where “gimmick” came from. Etymologists suggest it emerged in the US…

four flusher

“Four flushing” means empty boasting or unsuccessful bluffing. “Four flusher” can also refer to a welsher, piker, or braggart. This pejorative term originated in the 1800s when bluffing poker players misrepresented that they had a flush—a poker hand with five cards all of one suit—when they only had four cards of one suit. Strategies for bluffing or folding when holding…