Bedbugs and Bessie Bugs

The other day, I heard a celebrity say that someone was “as crazy as a bedbug.” I laughed, amused that the person had gone so far wrong with the idiom “crazy as a bessie bug.” As I usually do when struck by some linguistic oddity, I began searching for other examples. Imagine my surprise when … Read more

Bare or Bear With Me?

Commonly seen on the Web is the misspelled phrase “bare with me.” The correct expression is “bear with me.” It means, “be patient with me.” One of the many meanings of the verb “to bear” is “to tolerate.” The verb bare, on the other hand, means “to reveal” or “to uncover.” For example, “Do not … Read more

Hot Takes and Spit Takes

Take is one of the most generic and therefore versatile verbs (and, as a noun, has multiple senses), prompting an extensive collection of idioms, many of which are listed below. give and take: compromise hot take: a published reaction or analysis of a recent news event that, often because of the time-sensitive nature, doesn’t offer … Read more

Idioms and Expressions That Refer to Eating

This post discusses a number of idiomatic expressions that refer literally or figuratively to consuming food and include some form of the word eat. To say that someone will eat someone else for breakfast is to convey that the first person will easily defeat the other in whatever competition or rivalry they are engaged in. … Read more

70 “Home” Idioms and Expressions

1. A man’s home is his castle: a sentiment that a man should have freedom to do what he wants in his home (originally “An Englishman’s home is his castle”) 2. A woman’s place is in the home: a largely outdated notion that a woman’s activities should be limited to child-rearing and housekeeping 3. At … Read more

5 Derogatory Adjectives Derived from Words for Medical Conditions

The five uncomplimentary adjectives discussed in this post have in common their origin in references to diseases and other conditions affecting humans and/or other species. 1. Lousy Lousy, meaning “contemptible” or “inferior,” or “ill,” derives from the name of the parasitic insect known as the louse (plural lice), several species of which infest humans. Thanks … Read more

Slang Words Ending in “O”

Among the more curious classes of slang words is that of terms ending in the letter o, the topic of this post. Several categories exist in which informal words end in o. Among the oldest are those consisting of words to which an extraneous o has been added, such as cheerio (from cheer or cheery), … Read more

20 Archetypes for People Based on Names

Various expressions have arisen, sometimes from folkloric or historical origins, to describe types of people by assigning them with personal names. Here are twenty such appellations and their definitions and (sometimes only probable) origins. 1. Average Joe: the average man from a demographic viewpoint; from the ubiquity of the name Joe 2. Chatty Cathy: an … Read more

45 Idioms with “Roll”

Roll, ultimately derived from the Latin noun rota, meaning “wheel,” is the basis of numerous idioms about movement, many of which are listed and defined below. 1. a rolling stone gathers no moss: a proverb meaning that one who remains active will not become complacent or hidebound 2–4. get rolling or get/start the ball rolling: … Read more

What Is the Meaning of “Hack?”

The term hack, which entered general usage with a new, nontechnological sense of “solution” or “work-around,” as in the phrase “life hack,” in the previous decade has undergone an impressive divergence in meanings since it entered the English lexicon hundreds of years ago. However, as with the synonym kludge (also spelled kluge), the etymological origin … Read more

Many Ways to Break

How does one break? Which preposition follows the verb break depends, in American English idiom, on which type of literal or figurative breaking is occurring. To break away is to escape, to suddenly separate from a group, as in a race, to stop doing something (also referred to as taking a break), or to end … Read more

Misuse of “Comic Relief”

The following passage from a newspaper feature alerted me to confusion between the literary term “comic relief” and the idiom “to throw [something] into relief”: Inside, the obituary request for humane society donations comes into comic relief. There’s a Jack Russell and a King Charles, a cockatoo Miss Peepers and a cage full of finches. … Read more