Category: phrase sources

Sasquatch

“Sasquatch” is the “official” name of Bigfoot; a creature popularly described as being human-like in form but massive in size and appetite, usually residing in the American/Canadian northwest. Often depicted as ape-like and bipedal, this hair-covered mammal is believed by arguably delusional people to be the last surviving link between modern man and our evolutionary past. Theory say it has…

goody two-shoes

Today, a “goody two-shoes” means someone who is virtuous in a coy, smug or sentimental manner. The phrase was popularized by the 1765 publication, in London, of The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, a popular children’s story. At that time, the phrase described an excessively virtuous person or do-gooder. The plot, a variation of the Cinderella story, tells how Margery…

holy fool

The holy fool was an individual who behaved in an eccentric manner while pursuing a religious ideal.  The holy fool is found in many cultures, but particularly in the early Christian Church, where the fool’s actions could be termed “Foolishness for Christ.” Such individuals have historically been known as both “holy fools” and “blessed fools.” According to Christian ideas, foolishness…

out of the frying pan into the fire

We use the phrase “out of the frying pan into the fire” to describe moving from a bad or difficult situation to a worse one. This often happens because we’re trying to escape from the bad spot we’re in. This proverb originates from a Greek saying about running from the smoke right into the flame. Its first recorded use was…

not by a long chalk

“Not by a long chalk” means a wide margin, whether of time, distance, ability, or something else. In a game, ‘a long chalk’ would mean ‘a lot of points.’ “He lost that race by a long chalk. He came in fifteen minutes after everyone else.” But it’s often used in the negative sense. “Is William going to win the election?”…

a feather in your cap

A “feather in your cap” is a symbol of honor and achievement and has been so regarded in a number of cultures. Using the phrase figuratively has been common in the UK since the 1700s. Richard Hansard, English writer and traveler, recorded it in his Description of Hungary, 1599: “It hath been an antient custom among them [Hungarians] that none…

hit the nail on the head

To hit the nail on the head means to come up with the perfect solution to a problem, or to express a thought with precision.  If you’re a carpenter, you know that missing the nail and striking the wood will damage the wood. The perfect solution, of course, is to hit the nail squarely and drive it home. The origin…