Category: phrase sources

chuffed

The current meaning of “chuffed” is: delighted, pleased, satisfied. Norman W. Schur’s British English A to Zed (2001) says: “This curious bit of antiquated army slang has two diametrically opposite meanings, depending on the context. One can say chuffed pink (tickled pink) to mean ‘pleased’ or dead chuffed to mean ‘displeased’ or ‘choked’.” The Oxford English Dictionary agrees. When it…

right off the bat

“Right off the bat” means done in a hurry, without delay. Similar phrases are: lickety-split   and as fast as greased lightning. The phrase likely arose from baseball, where, after a successful hit, the batter takes immediate action and runs to first base. In newspapers of the 1880s, the expression was used both in relation to baseball, but also in…

mollycoddle

“Mollycoddle” means to spoil or overindulge someone, an extreme form of “coddle.” The word “coddle” has a long history. It was recorded in print in Jane Austen’s Emma: “Be satisfied with doctoring and coddling yourself.” But before that it may have meant to “boil gently” as in coddling an egg. When I was a kid, I always wondered how to…

gobsmacked

“Gobsmacked” means flabbergasted, astounded, speechless, overawed, or stopped dead in your tracks. In other words, your emotion is much stronger than mere surprise. “Gobsmacked” is a combination of the northern English and Scottish slang term gob, mouth, with the verb smack. An example is: “I was utterly gobsmacked to hear that a 22-year-old woman from America has put her virginity…

one-off

A “one-off” is something that is one of a kind or only happens once. The phrase “one-off” originated in Britain in the 1930s. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the term “one-off” as an adjective (meaning “made or done as the only one of its kind; unique, not repeated”), and as a noun for such a product. A one-off is just…

wet blanket

Figuratively, a “wet blanket” is a person or object that destroys other people’s enjoyment. In other words, a party-pooper, a spoilsport, a killjoy, or Joe Btfsplk, the most unlucky denizen of Dogpatch, featured in the newspaper comic strip Lil’ Abner (1934 – 1977). Mr. Btfsplk was such a killjoy that he travelled with his own black cloud overhead. Add to…

short takes

Another little collection of familiar sayings that are pretty much self-explanatory and which don’t have any interesting history, either ancient or modern: Paddle your own canoe — be independent and decide your own fate Cut from the same cloth — people or items closely resembling one another Make waves — cause trouble Talk is cheap — easier to talk about…