beside yourself

If you’re “beside yourself,” whether it’s with sorrow, joy, or rage, you’re “outside yourself” or “out of your mind.”  The phrase “beside oneself” appeared at about the same time (1400s) as “out of one’s mind,” which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “having lost control of one’s mental faculties; insane, deranged, delirious.” There are many other synonyms for being beside…

ants in your pants

If you have “ants in your pants,” that means you’re fidgeting or “antsy.”  If you’re sitting on the ground at a picnic, you could literally have ants in your pants, which would certainly make you fidget and, very likely, jump up and remove those pants. The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (1985) says the phrase means “excessively restless or…

hornswoggle

“Hornswoggle” means to bamboozle, bluff, deceive, delude, dupe, fool, hoodwink, trick, or swindle and is first recorded in the USA in the 1800s. A character in Jack London’s The Valley of the Moon (1913) bitterly complains, “We’re hornswoggled. We’re backed to a standstill. We’re double-crossed to a fare-you-well.” A few years later, P. G. Wodehouse used it in Little Warrior:…

butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth

This phrase means to be prim and proper, or demure and insincere, with a cool demeanor, the cool demeanor being the most important part. It is an old saying, and was included as a proverb in John Heywood’s collection of 1546. The saying is not easy to understand, since in these modern days of refrigerators, you could put butter in…

right up my alley

“Right up my alley” means something of special interest to me, something I like a lot, or something pleasingly familiar.  This idiom uses “alley” in the sense of “one’s own province or area,” a usage dating from the early 1600s. Francis Bacon used it this way in his essay Of Cunning (1612): “Such men…are good but in their own Alley.” …

Sasquatch

“Sasquatch” is the “official” name of Bigfoot; a creature popularly described as being human-like in form but massive in size and appetite, usually residing in the American/Canadian northwest. Often depicted as ape-like and bipedal, this hair-covered mammal is believed by arguably delusional people to be the last surviving link between modern man and our evolutionary past. Theory say it has…

goody two-shoes

Today, a “goody two-shoes” means someone who is virtuous in a coy, smug or sentimental manner. The phrase was popularized by the 1765 publication, in London, of The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, a popular children’s story. At that time, the phrase described an excessively virtuous person or do-gooder. The plot, a variation of the Cinderella story, tells how Margery…