the dark side

“The dark side” is the evil and malevolent aspect of human personality or society, often referred to in a lighthearted or comic context. The dark side is also, of course, the portion of Earth facing away from sunlight. Figurative uses of the term go back hundreds of years, since it’s found in Christian imagery as well as such phrases as,…

telling tales out of school

“Telling tales out of school” means to reveal confidential or sensitive information, or to gossip, or betray confidences. The first published reference in the Oxford English Dictionary is from a 1546 book of proverbs and epigrams collected by the English writer John Heywood in Dialogue Containing the Number in Effect of all the Proverbs in the English Tongue: “To tell…

lollygag

“Lollygag” means to fool around, dally, spend time aimlessly, or dawdle. Here’s an apt description from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary: “You certainly didn’t want to be known as a lollygagger at the beginning of the 20th century. Back then, lollygag was slang for ‘fooling around’ (sexually, that is). That sense of lollygag was in use as long ago as 1868, and…

money laundering

“Money laundering” means any act or attempted act to disguise the source of money or assets derived from criminal activity. Specifically, “dirty money” received from criminal activities is processed through legitimate businesses and converted into “clean money.” Once cleaned, the money cannot be easily traced to the person originating the transaction or to the criminal origin of the funds. Hence,…

take with a grain of salt

To “take with a grain [pinch] of salt” is an idiom which tells you to be skeptical, or take care not to interpret something literally. The expression has been found in print in English starting in the mid-1600s, though it is probably much older. We inherited our modern English word “salt” from the Old English “sealt.” The Latin word salis…

scat

The word “scat” has several meanings: an interjection used to drive away a cat, to go away quickly, animal fecal droppings, jazz singing with nonsense syllables. The word has been with us since at least 1838. Apparently, “begone” or “scram” were the only meanings of the word until sometime after WW II. It’s still used to tell a cat to…

greenhorn

A greenhorn is generally anyone who is inexperienced, immature, or gullible. In other words, a rookie. A greenhorn might also be a recent immigrant who hasn’t yet learned the ways of his or her new country. Or maybe it’s this new year, 2020, which is just about seven hours old!  The word is usually attributed to cowboys who noticed the…