Tag: phrases

Where does the expression ‘to mind your Ps and Qs’ come from?

etiquette

If you have you ever been told to mind your Ps and Qs, it might have struck you as a rather odd thing to do. The concept seems reasonable enough– behaving well and not giving offence – but quite what the letters P and Q have to do with this is a little more mysterious. […]

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Plain unlucky! From hapless hunters to unfortunate accidents

Dog Shoots Man: … Man Recovering from Gunshot Wound Caused by Pet … The hapless hunter was setting up decoys in the water when the mishap occurred. The above Huffington Post story caught my eye for two reasons: after I’d stopped smiling at the image of a dog shooting his master in the posterior (no […]

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The lexicon of consumerism and America’s Christmas season

Christmas shopping

For those of us immersed in preparations for Christmas, the time remaining feels insufficiently brief, and the few weeks since Thanksgiving seem more like a few days. As fleeting as time is between Turkey Day and December 25, we in the US possess a peculiarly American interpretation of when the Christmas season “begins.” My British […]

A Word a Day keeps the cobwebs away

global_languages

Did you know that the Oxford Language Dictionaries Online Words of the Day are handpicked by teams of editors who scour the dictionaries looking for a little quirkiness to brighten up your day? Or that you can easily sign up to receive these Words of the Day by email in French, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, […]

thunder

Why do we talk about stealing someone’s thunder?

This idiom, defined as using the ideas devised by another person for your own advantage, has a gratifyingly literal story behind it. It is quite rare for etymologists to pinpoint the very first use of a word or phrase. In this case, however, the eighteenth-century actor and playwright Colley Cibber, in his Lives of the […]

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Let’s just “call a cat a cat”

Cat

Just a few weeks ago Christine Lindberg explored phrases and idioms that revealed the somewhat surprising way in which the English language describes man’s best friend. But what about that equally popular household pet – the beloved, fluffy, crazy cat? (Those three adjectives are among some of the most popular in the English language to […]

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A penny for your thoughts …

Penny

According to some, today is ‘Lucky Penny Day’. The OED describes a ‘lucky penny’ as usually one that is bent or perforated, or sometimes an old or foreign coin. In the early nineteenth century, a ‘luck-penny’ was defined as ‘the cash which the seller gives back to the buyer after the latter has paid him; […]

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