Excuse My French: Ten Idioms And Their Strange Origins

Idioms. Loosely defined, an idiom is a “word, phrase or saying that is used, but not interpreted logically or literally.”

I’m a native English speaker and I still get all tangled up in these. (I’m still stuck on “Bob’s your uncle.” I’ll never understand that one!)

Here are a few everyday idioms, their meaning, and origin.

To Turn A Blind Eye

Definition: To purposefully ignore undesirable information

Example: “I can’t believe you can turn a blind eye to the corruption in the world.”

This expression is rumored to have arisen after the English Battle of Copenhagen in 1801, in which naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson, is said to have purposely raised his spyglass to his blind eye, thus making sure that he would not see any sign from his commanding officer, giving him option to withdraw from the battle.

On The Ball

Definition: Someone who is sharp, in control, and alert.

Example: “I like the new commissioner, he’s really on the ball!”

This is believed to have originated with sports, however there are a few theories to where it first began. One theory is that “on the ball” refers to runners getting ready for a race, up on the balls of their feet on the starting line. It may also be derived from the earlier expression “keep your eye on the ball” (used in many sports.)

This could possibly have originated from a saying during the early days of baseball. When the pitcher couldn’t get a good pitch, it was said that he had “nothing on the ball.” Therefore the opposite would be “on the ball,” meaning he or she has control of a situation.

Hit The Sack/Hit The Hay

Definition: To go to bed

Example: “I’m so tired after that party, it’s time for me to hit the hay / hit the sack.”

This most likely originated due to the fact that in the late 19th century, mattresses often were made out of old sacks, which were generally stuffed full of hay or straw.

Cut From The Same Cloth

Definition: Similar, of the same nature

Example: “Your father and husband sure are cut from the same cloth!”

This expression is supposedly derived from tailoring. If you’re making a suit, you would want the jacket and pants to be cut from the same piece of material, thus ensuring a perfect match in color, weave, etc. There are many differences that can occur in material from batch to batch, so the only way to ensure a perfect match in fabric is to have the whole outfit cut from the same cloth.

Down To The Wire

Definition: Undecided until the last minute

Example: “That election was really down to the wire!”

This phrase supposedly came from races, such as horse races and foot races, where the winner was determined by whomever crossed the finish line first. A string, tape or paper banner was stretched across the finish line to help the judges see clearly who crossed first in a close race. That banner over the finish line was called the “wire,” and the winner is the one who broke the “wire” first.

Bite Off More Than You Can Chew

Definition: Taking on more than you can handle

Example: “I bit off more than I could chew by picking a fight with that guy!”

This idiom dates back to the 1800s, when people chewed tobacco regularly. Sometimes the greedier people would bite off too large of a chunk, which made for the warning, “not to bite off more than you could chew.”

Bite The Bullet

Definition: Deciding to do something hard and get it over with

Example: “I really just need to bite the bullet on this project.”

This idiom is believed to have been derived historically, from the practice of having a patient chew a bullet as a way to cope with the extreme pain of a surgical procedure without anesthesia, however, this is disputed. This may have been done simply as a last resort with battlefield medics, and in the old west where there were few resources. This phrase was first recorded by Rudyard Kipling in his book The Light That Failed.

Riding Shotgun

Definition: Sitting in the front seat

Example: “I’m riding shotgun on the way to the mall!”

When stagecoaches were used as the main means of transport, the seat next to the driver was reserved for an individual holding a firearm, traditionally a shotgun. This front-seat position was strategic for the guard to be able to see and ward off any bandits or animals that would attempt to loot or endanger the passengers riding in the carriage.

Dressed To The Nines

Definition: Dressed very elaborately

Example: “Lets get dressed to the nines and go out tonight.”

This idiom may have originated in one of these two places. One possible origin is that the saying was inspired after the exquisitely crafted uniforms of the 99th infantry regiment of the British army, formed in 1824.

It also may have come from tailoring. When a tailor makes a high quality suit, it uses more fabric. It takes nine yards to make a perfect suit, because a good suit has the fabric cut all the same direction. This causes a great amount of waste, but if you want to show that you’re fancy, you pay for such waste.

Raining Cats And Dogs

Definition: Raining very large, heavy raindrops

Example: “Look outside at those raindrops! It’s raining cats and dogs!”

This strange phrase was first recorded in 1651 in the poet Henry Vaughan’s collection Olor Iscanus. Its origins are left up to speculation, with the ideas ranges from medieval superstition to Norse mythology. The most probable source of the phrase, however, is that dead animals and other debris were sometimes washed up in the streets after heavy rainfall, which could make it appear that it had “rained cats and dogs.”

If you liked this post, be sure to check out part one, Dont Want To Be An American Idiom.

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Millennial Mind Bomb: Why I loved Netflix’s ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’

I was the optimal age when Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events first hit shelves. The Bad Beginning was released 18 years ago and it is still well loved by us ‘90s kids today.  (Well, I guess we are supposedly adults now. ’90s adults?)

Last year, I heard that Netflix was re-creating these classic books into an original series and I was ecstatic.  I have been very impressed with the shows and movies Netflix has rolled out thus far, however, I was devastated to hear that they were casting Neil Patrick Harris, the comedian, as the Count Olaf, the darkest and most sinister villain of my childhood.

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Upon watching the series, however, I was pleasantly surprised. Harris does a fantastic job playing this evil fiend. Harris plays Olaf as an ominous adversary, but the dark humor and self-awareness he brings to the character is enough to keep the show light.

 

Lemony Snicket, played by Patrick Warburton, narrates the show. He does an incredible job and really brings the Gothic feel of the books to the series. The orphans, Melinda Wessman as Violet, Louis Hynes as Klaus, and Presley Smith as Sunny (voiced by Tara Strong) do a great job of carrying the story. There are a few famous faces that bring life to the show as well, such as Joan Cusack as Justice Strauss, and Catherine O’Hara as Dr. Orwell. This show also features Daniel Handler, also known as the author, Lemony Snicket himself, in three episodes, as the fish head salesmen.

daniel handler lemony snicket cameo with mr poe a series of unfortunate events netflix

 

 

The premiere season of this Netflix original show covers the first four of the Snicket’s books, The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, The Wide Window, and The Miserable Mill.

The show follows the Baudelaire children, Violet, Klaus and Sunny. After their parents die in a mysterious fire, they are bounced from guardian to guardian, while being chased by the evil Count Olaf, who is in pursuit of the Baudelaire’s fortune. 

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Running parallel to the orphan’s story is the mystery of a secret agency, the Volunteer Fire Department. The VFD mystery is intriguing and a lot more is revealed about it in the show than in the book series, which I really enjoyed.

It also follows the path of two adventurous parents, played by Will Arnett and Cobie Smulders, who are first seen in a prison in Peru. The whole series, the nameless “parents” are trying to get home to their children. You are led to believe that these are the Baudelaire parents, that somehow things are going to turn around and the Baudelaire’s will live happily ever after as a family.

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Alas, the twist at the end is that the parents make it home to their children, however, they are not the Baudelaire orphans, they are none other than the Quagmire triplets, who become the Baudelaire’s only friends later on in the series.

The first season comes to a close with the Quagmires’ house engulfing in flames, and the two surviving Quagmire triplets arriving at the Austere Academy along with the Baudelaire orphans.

This show satisfied my love for these books and brought back all the great childhood memories of reading them. I was very pleased with the series and can’t wait for season two.

 

Did you read these books? How did you feel about the Netflix series? 

What Did You Just Say? Fifteen Words And Phrases You May Be Pronouncing Wrong

The English language can be tough sometimes. After all, this is the great melting pot! We have adopted many different words and phrases from our friends in other countries over the years, and we don’t always use them properly! 

Have you ever caught yourself saying “expresso,” or “excetera?”

If so, this list is for you!

 

 1. One In The Same vs. One And The Same

“One in the same” is incorrect. If you are using this phrase to talk about two things that appear to be the exact same, they would be as one. This being said, “One and the same” is correct, and makes much more sense.

2. Acrossed/Acrost vs. Across

It’s easy to get this one confused, wanting to relate the words “crossed” and  “acrossed” makes sense. However, “acrossed” is not a word, the correct form of this word is simply “across.”

3. On Accident vs. By Accident

Things happen by accident, not on accident. These prepositions easily get mixed up, but “By accident” makes more sense, and is the correct wording for this phrase.

4. Artic vs. Arctic

The “c” sound is often left out in the middle of this word. It should be pronounced “arc-tic,” not “art-ic.”

5. Pacific vs. Specific

These are both functional words, however they have completely different meanings. “Pacific” means “peaceful in intent,” or of course, could be referring to the Pacific Ocean. “Specific” means “clearly defined or identified.” You want to ask someone to be more “specific.” Not more “pacific.” (unless you’d like them to be more peaceful, I suppose.)

6. Bob Wire vs. Barbed Wire

Barbed wire has barbs, it is in no way named after someone named Bob (Or Barb Dwyer for that matter). You should hear that “-d” in the pronunciation.

7. Irregardless vs. Regardless

 This word often gets the extra sound added to the front. The word is regardless, not Irregardless. adding “ir”  this would make this a double negative.

8. Old Timers Disease vs. Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease is often mispronounced, while it is a disease of the elderly, it’s title is derived from the founder’s own name, Dr. Alois Alzheimer, the German neurologist.

9. A Blessing In The Skies vs. A Blessing In Disguise

I understand where this could have come from, like a blessing from God. However, the phrase is a blessing in disguise. Not a blessing in the sky or from the skies.

10. For All Intensive Purposes vs. For All Intents And Purposes

This has nothing to do with intensive care, or being intense. This phrase means “for every practical sense.” “All intensive purposes” does not make sense. Thankfully for writers, this is an error that grammar check will catch!

11. Expecially vs. Especially

The “s” in this is often switched for an “x”. Although things special are rarely expected, these are two different words. The correct word is “especially.”

 12. Expresso vs. Espresso

Along with the beverage, this word was borrowed from Italy, where the Latin prefix ex- has developed into es-. This word is often mispronounced with the “ex”, however, it is “espresso.”

13. Excape vs. Escape

Three in a row! Another “x” sneaking in where an “s” should be. The proper is “escape.”

14. Excetera vs. Et Cetera

This is a Latin phrase which means “the rest”, often abbreviated “etc.” It is two words, “Et cetera” not Excetera.

15. Supposebly vs. Supposedly

The word “supposedly” means “allegedly, theoretically or purportedly.”  This mispronunciation, “supposebly,” could actually be a word in English, literally meaning “capable of being supposed”. If that is what you want to say, the word is not actually an error!

 Do you struggle with any of these mispronunciations? What are some grammar errors that drive you crazy?

 

Shortie: 5 Great Words

Happy Weekend! Today, I just wanted to share a few of my favorite words with you.

Suddenly.

Adverb, meaning swiftly, or unexpectedly. This is always a great word, and when you see it in a book, you know something exciting is about to happen. “She was alone in the house, when suddenly…there was a noise in the hallway!”

Asinine.

Adjective, meaning extremely foolish or stupid. I think this is just a fun word to say. Instead of “you’re being dumb” You can say “You are demonstrating extremely asinine behavior.” Its wonderful.

Plethora.

Noun, meaning a large amount of something. Can be used in place of “a lot” and it sounds much more sophisticated. “There is a plethora of laundry to be folded.”

Serendipity.

Noun, good fortune, making a valuable discovery you weren’t looking for. “Its so serendipitous to see you here after all these years!” This word just sounds sweet and happy, no wonder its describing good luck!

Onomatopoeia.

Noun, a word that’s name mimics the sound of the object or action it refers to. For example, the words “bark” and “munch.”

 

What are some of your favorite words?

Knowledge is Power: Five Ways Reading Can Improve Your Life

Books are fun. There are so many different types of literature available, written by authors of all ages and genders, with all sorts of tastes and diverse writing styles.
There are books written yesterday, and books written 1,000 years ago, such as
The Odyssey by Homer, which are still relevant today. So many books, so little time.

I know that I get busy, and with work, family, and other hobbies, and sometimes I don’t find time in my schedule to sit down and get lost in a novel.

Here are just a few reasons why we all should get in the habit of enjoying a good book more often:

  • Reading Builds Vocabulary and Improves Writing Skills

If you read a lot, you may be able to recognize and therefore utilize good writing skills, word choices, and ideas that you find in other author’s works. A good book will also introduce new words, and seeing them in context can help with comprehension, and as well as spelling, sentence structure, and grammar. The larger your vocabulary, the more articulately and expressively you will be able to convey your thoughts on paper. Furthermore, different styles of books will expose you to diverse writing styles, which will give you creative ideas to draw from in the future for your own writing. 

  • Reading Helps With Relaxation and Stress Reduction

Relaxing with a book for only 10 minutes can completely relieve tension in the body. When you escape into a book, your mind and body have the ability to relax while it exists in another place and time. This can be the ultimate way to unwind and forget about the anxiety around you, as reading lowers stress levels more quickly than other tension reducers, like cooking, listening to music or working out. 

  • Reading is a Brain Workout, and May Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia 

When you read, your memory increases, as you are training your brain to retain the ideas and words you are seeing on the page. A new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that reading may slow or even completely prevent the development of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, since your brain is constantly engaged. Reading forms new pathways in the brain, which strengthens existing memories as well as creates new ones. A good book also improves your analytical and critical thinking skills, which are involved as you analyze the story, put the plot together, understanding the characters, and so on. 

  • Reading Improves Concentration

Picking up a book requires your complete focus and attention in one place. In our world of social media, text messages and 5-minute attention spans, it’s easy to lose focus, which greatly decreases productivity. Reading can improve concentration and help you stay focused for longer. 

  • Reading Provides Knowledge and Builds Imagination

You can learn anything from books! Skills for life, interesting facts about individuals, or would you just like to take a trip to a new world? There are millions of books, to learn about anything and expand your imagination. A big imagination can help cultivate problem solving skills, and open the door for new opportunities and ideas. And as we know, knowledge is power!

What about you? What are some books that you are reading? Do you have any reading goals at this time?

Book Slump? Say No More!

I have seen quite a few posts lately about people being in “book slumps” and not having any good books to read at the time. So I thought I’d help out by making a list of 10 of my all-time favorite books to give my slumped friends some ideas.

 

Cleopatra: A Life

Author: Stacy Schiff

“The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer brings to life the most intriguing woman in the history of the world: Cleopatra, the last queen of Egypt.” This is a well-researched, easy to read, in depth biography about Cleopatra. I ate this book up. It was amazing, and very sad that more people don’t know her true story. She was an amazing woman.

 

The Illustrated Man

Author: Ray Bradbury

A young man meets an “The Illustrated Man”, whose enchanted tattoos are filled with the power to tell stories and see the future. Despite the Illustrated Man’s warnings, he looks at the tattoos, which tells him eighteen stories. This book is chocked full of 18 intriguing science fiction stories, by one of the most well-known science fiction authors of our time.


 The Picture of Dorian Grey

Author: Oscar Wilde

Everyone already knows the story of Dorian Grey. He meets a man who shows him the pleasures the world has to offer, Dorian then expresses how he wishes he could sell his soul and never age. A full length portrait painted of himself he keeps locked away, as it ages and records every sin. I love this book because of Oscar Wilde’s writing style. Its beautiful and descriptive, I could read it over and over.


 The Three Musketeers

Author: Alexandre Dumas

The Three Musketeers tell the story of the adventures of d’Artagnan and his three friends: Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, serving in the King’s Musketeers. This novel features great humor, adventure and comradery, as well as  one of literature’s most evil and memorable female villains: Milady. A classic adventure story. Everyone should read this.

 

The Scarlet Pimpernel

Author: Baroness Orczy

This has a similar feel to the Three Musketeers, set in the early stages of the French Revolution. This is about a small band of men who rescue aristocrats before they can be beheaded by the French. Its definingly a takes awhile to get going, but the book has an ending that for sure makes it worth it, as well as a really endearing love story.

 

The Sword of Destiny

Author: Andrej Sapowski

A short story collection that recounts the adventures of Geralt of Rivia, a monster hunter. Originally written in Polish, this is part of a large series of books that inspired the Witcher video game series developed by CD Projec Red. All the books in this series are excellent fantasy books, but this short story collection is my favorite. 


 1984

Author: George Orwell

The novel is set in Airstrip One, a province of the superstate Oceania in a world of perpetual war, omnipresent government surveillance, and public manipulation. The superstate is under the control of the privileged elite of the Inner Party. This is a terrifying and good classic book. Everyone should pick this up, with situations like this becoming more possible as technology advances. 

 

The Amethyst Heart

Author: Penelope J Stokes

For a hundred and forty years, Noble House has been a place of shelter, hope, and healing in Cambridge, Mississippi. This is a story that spans three generations of the family who built and lived in the house, and their faith and courage during the Civil War. A heartwarming story of family and faith.