Kilroy was here

“Kilroy was here” is an expression that became popular during World War II, typically showing up as graffiti. Kilroy has been seen all over the world and went viral long before the Internet was around, finding his way through all the theaters of war with American troops. Its origin is debated, but the phrase and the distinctive accompanying doodle became…

nincompoop

A “nincompoop” is a foolish or stupid person, who often flaunts his stupidity in front of others. Synonyms are: jackass, idiot, dunce, imbecile, blockhead, dummy, numbskull, birdbrain, nitwit, dimwit, dumbass, bonehead, dumbbell, silly, and moron. Dr Johnson, in his famous Dictionary of 1755, said the word came from Latin non compos, as in the medical and legal phrase non compos…

dog robber

Today, a “dog robber” is a military officer’s orderly, whose job is to acquire scarce goods, from military equipment to liquor or perfume, often staying barely within the letter of the law. In other words, someone skilled at foraging. The Oxford English Dictionary traces the term back to 1832, when it meant “scrounger,” and to the American Civil War as…

Deep Water

I’m thrilled to annouce that I have a new book out! Here’s the cover and the back cover blurb:   Deception Bay is still what might be called a sleepy village, but right now it isn’t peaceful. Between the possible sale of the venerable Wayfarer Inn to make way for upscale condominiums, and a major fire, Larry, local bartender, and…

moxie

If you have “moxie,” you have pep, courage, guts, nerve, know-how, determination, attitude, stamina, and aggressiveness. The word comes from Moxie, a non-alcoholic drink first produced by the Moxie Nerve Food Company of Massachusetts around 1884 as “nerve food” syrup. The founder, Dr. Augustin Thompson, developed it as a patent medicine, claiming it cured paralysis, loss of manhood, and softening…

upset the apple cart

“To upset the apple cart” means to create a difficulty or spoil carefully laid plans. This phrase is first recorded by Jeremy Belknap in The History of New Hampshire, 1788: “Adams had almost overset the apple-cart by intruding an amendment of his own fabrication on the morning of the day of ratification” [of the Constitution]. In the 1800s “apple cart”…

chuffed

The current meaning of “chuffed” is: delighted, pleased, satisfied. Norman W. Schur’s British English A to Zed (2001) says: “This curious bit of antiquated army slang has two diametrically opposite meanings, depending on the context. One can say chuffed pink (tickled pink) to mean ‘pleased’ or dead chuffed to mean ‘displeased’ or ‘choked’.” The Oxford English Dictionary agrees. When it…