horsing around

Light-hearted, boisterous play; fooling around and having fun in a physical way. Little kids especially enjoy horsing around.  In the 16th century, “horse” was a common adjective describing anything strong, big, or coarse. Along with horseplay, that’s how horseradish got its name. The verb “horse,” once meant “play crazy jokes on.” Experts aren’t sure how it came into use, or…

bunny hug

The Saskatchewan nickname for a hooded sweatshirt, with a pocket in front, and no zipper.  It’s similar to a “cotton popover” and a “kangaroo sweatshirt.” Bunny populations in Saskatchewan were high back in the 50’s and 60’s, and the bunnies annoyed farmers by munching on crops. The government was persuaded to put a bounty on bunnies, the same as they…

barking up the wrong tree

If you are “barking up the wrong tree,” you’re wasting your time and energy by making the wrong assumption, making the wrong choice, or asking the wrong person.  The allusion is to hunting dogs barking at the bottom of trees where they mistakenly think their quarry is hiding. The earliest known printed citation is in James Kirke Paulding’s Westward Ho!,…

I’m on TV!

And now for something entirely different — and new to me! I was interviewed on Shaw TV last week! The show is called Indigenous Voice, and the host was Joy Hamilton. We talked about my book, Green Blood Rising. The program will air on Shaw TV Channel 4 (South Vancouver Island) on Wednesday, February 22, at 9 p.m.  I hope…

not on your Nelly

This, apparently, is Cockney rhyming slang for “not on your life” or “not bloody likely.” However, there are two versions. In the first one, the slang goes this way: Nelly rhymes with smelly, which leads to smelly breath, breath leads to breathing to keep alive, leading to “not on your life.” In the other, Nelly is short for “Nelly duff,”…

extend the olive branch

To extend the olive branch means trying to make peace with an enemy or someone with whom you have disagreed. Olive branches as symbols of peace or victory began in ancient Greece and Rome. In Greek mythology, Athena competed with Poseidon for possession of Athens. Poseidon claimed possession by thrusting his trident into the Acropolis, where a well of sea-water…

tongue in cheek

The tongue-in-cheek figure of speech is used to imply that because what one is saying or writing is ironic or flippant, and it should not be taken at face value.  The phrase was originally meant to express contempt. For example, in Tobias Smollett’s The Adventures of Roderick Random, published in 1748, Mr. Smollett is taking a coach to Bath and…