Category: phrase sources

eat like a horse

To eat large amounts of food. A full-grown horse can eat up to 2% of its body weight per day, amounting to about 20 pounds of food. But, to be fair to the horse, an animal much bigger than one of us, it must eat a lot of grass or straw to get the same nourishment as a human might…

how do you like them apples?

The phrase is a rhetorical question. It’s used to express bemusement or vexation, or gloating when someone turns the tables on someone else. It can also be directed mockingly at someone who has received surprising information, ridiculing the situation, and has overtones of challenge and mild disrespect.    It has been suggested that the phrase originated in World War I. It…

horse of a different color

Another matter entirely from the subject at hand, something else.  The phrase may have originated with real horses. Pure-breds are registered at birth and the information on the registrations includes their color. When a horse is sold, the registration is also transferred. Occasionally, the color recorded on the registration doesn’t match the actual color of the horse.  Horses’ coats do…

a piece of work

This interesting phrase has changed its meaning over the years. Back in 1473, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, it simply meant a product or something manufactured. By 1533, it was also being used to mean a difficult undertaking or task. Shakespeare used it in a very positive way in Hamlet (1604): “What a piece of work is a man,…

piss and vinegar

Brimming with energy, boisterous, assertive, full of beans.  To say that people are “full of piss and vinegar” is to say that they are brimming with energy and enthusiasm. In the distant past, similar phrases had a rather negative connotation, but the modern expression is usually complimentary, “vinegar” being an old slang term for enthusiastic energy. Here are the more…

don’t look a gift horse in the mouth

Looking a “gift horse in the mouth” would be like judging the gift’s value, which is an insult. The gift may not be ideal if it is an old horse, but since it was free and you can still make good use of it, perhaps gratitude for having one at all is appropriate. Of course this proverb is one that…

the worm turns

“Even a worm will turn” is an expression used to mean that an unfavorable situation can be reversed, that even the meekest or most docile of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far. It’s a metaphor meaning that a person will fight back if pushed too far. I don’t think worms fight back, but remember that “worm”…