it’s no skin off my nose

What you might say when the problem doesn’t concern you, and you may possibly even have a contemptuous lack of interest in the outcome.  Some variations are ‘no skin off my tail/behind/back/ass/teeth/ear.’ There are several different theories about the source of this expression. Gregory Titelman’s America’s Popular Proverbs and Sayings claims the expression is of boxing origin and dates from…

dragged through a knothole backwards

This phrase means looking scruffy and unkempt, or simply feeling that way after some sort of rough ordeal. This version of the phrase appears to be North American, but the original was “dragged through a hedge backwards” and arose in England. It’s first seen in print in The Hereford Journal, February 1857, in a report of a poultry show: “In…

straight laced

Originally this phrase, spelled ‘strait laced’ meant constricted or narrow but, more specifically, wearing a bodice or corsets tightly laced. Today it is spelled ‘straight laced’ and means excessively rigid in behavior, morals, or moral judgement. ‘Strait’ is still used in expressions like ‘strait and narrow,’ ‘dire straits,’ ‘strait-jacket,’ and  ‘straitened circumstances.’ The meaning of both spellings becomes clear when…

marry in haste, repent at leisure

Quite self-explanatory. The phrase says that if you marry someone you don’t know well, you may well regret the marriage later. This proverb has been traced back to the Duties of Marriage, published in England in 1566. Shakespeare, Byron, James Joyce and others coined variants of it.  The saying was also expressed in print in 1693, by William Congreve in…

bigwig

A bigwig is an important person, someone of a high status. The OED says this is because “of the large wigs formerly worn by men of distinction or importance.” The term ‘bigwig’ was first recorded in 1703 in a weekly journal called English Spy. The next time it’s seen in print is G. Selwyn’s 1781 Letters in 15th Rep. Hist.…

gossip

Gossiping is idle chat, or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others; the act is also known as dishing or tattling. The word is from Old English ‘godsibb,’ from god and sibb, the term for the godparents of one’s child or the parents of one’s godchild, generally very close friends. In the 16th century, the word was…

chairman

The presiding officer of a meeting or committee, or the administrative officer of a department of instruction (as in a college). And finally, a carrier of a sedan chair.  The origin is, as you might guess, a compound of the words ‘chair’ and ‘man.’ The ‘chair’ is a reference to a seat or position of authority and the ‘man’ is,…