Category: phrase sources

get with the program

“Get with the program” (get with it, get a clue) means to do what is expected of one, to adopt the prevailing viewpoint, to keep up. This American idiom can also mean to become organized, or up to date on the latest findings or fashions. I know this phrase from experience. I never used a phone until I was seventeen,…

acid test

An “acid test” is a foolproof, conclusive test of success or value, or which proves a hypothesis or the validity of an idea. Examples are: The product looks great, but will people buy it? That’s the acid test. He played that game well, but the acid test will come when he plays a stronger opponent. The acid test for the…

pinky finger

The “pinky finger” is the smallest finger of the human hand, opposite the thumb, and next to the ring finger. And no, it’s not called “pinky” because it’s little and pink and therefore cute. The word is derived from the Dutch word pinkje, meaning “little finger.” In some places “pinky” is also a traditional name for the youngest child in…

short takes

Knock into the middle of next week — hit extremely hard Floats my boat — makes me happy Bits and pieces — odds and ends Bits and bobs — the English version of bits and pieces Death warmed over — you look only slightly better than if you were dead True grit — perseverance and passion for long-term goals Hophead…

wake

The word “wake” is a verb, meaning to prevent someone from sleeping, to wake the person up. As a noun, “wake” means a death vigil, usually held before a funeral. It’s a social gathering to pay one’s respects to the departed and give family members a chance to adjust to the loss before the corpse is placed in the ground.…

jonesing

If you’re “jonesing,” you have a strong need, desire, or craving for something. In current slang use, jonesing has evolved from a narcotics-addiction origin to a general yearning. It seems to have shouldered aside the phrase “to have the hots for.” Examples: “I’m jonesing for a little ganja.” “I’m jonesing for some soul food.” “Jones” and “jonesing” are first found…

graveyard shift

The “graveyard shift” is a late-night/early-morning work shift. This work shift was so-named not because it has anything to do with graveyards, but because of the lonesome, spooky feeling of working in the dark silence of the midnight hours and early morning hours when most people are home asleep.  The similar phrase “graveyard watch” originated at about the same time,…