Clear Answers for Common Questions

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What does It Mean to be "Madder Than a Wet Hen"? If you like keeping your temper, then there’s little chance you’d like to be madder than a wet hen. This American expression, which possibly originated in the Appalachian Mountains, refers to the tempestuous temper of chickens that might accidentally find themselves in water. According to some accounts, chickens ... What does It Mean to be "Walking on Eggshells"? The idiom walking on eggshells generally describes a situation in which people must tread lightly around a sensitive topic, or make every effort not to offend a volatile or hypersensitive person. Literally walking on the empty shells of eggs would require exceptional caution and self-control, similar to the feeling ... What does "to the Hilt" Mean? The phrase “to the hilt” means “all the way.” It can be used in a number of ways, as in “he lives life to the hilt,” or “she is up to the hilt in that project.” This term is widely used in most English-speaking nations, and there are undoubtedly ... What does "Shoot from the Hip" Mean? “Shoot from the hip” is an American saying that has to do with the choice of a course of action. In most cases, the expression refers to a decision that is reached and implemented without stopping to consider the possible outcomes of the decision. From this perspective, choosing this action ... What does It Mean When Someone Says They are Going to "Hit the Head"? There's no delicate way to put this: if someone says he is going to hit the head, it means he plans on using the restroom. The expression comes from navy and coast guard jargon for bathroom. Sailors, marines and Coast Guard members call their facilities heads, while land-based ... What does "Speak of the Devil" Mean? The idiom speak of the Devil generally refers to the sudden and presumably unexpected appearance of the object of discussion. If two co-workers are discussing the need for a meeting with their boss and the boss suddenly appears, one might utter this phrase. Other encounters with the subject of ... What does "I Could Care Less" Mean? "I could care less" is one of those idiomatic expressions, particularly in American English, that doesn’t necessarily mean what it says. There are many suggestions for the origin of the phrase, the most recent of which is that it's a corruption of "I couldn’t care less," possibly ... What does "Apple Polishing" Mean? Apple polishing has a number of synonyms, which include brown-nosing, false flattering, and toadying. In all cases, the idea comes from apples given to teachers at school in order to curry favor. It can be a mute appeal in the form of a gift to like and therefore grade ... What does "Just Deserts" Mean? The expression just desserts is a common misspelling of the actual idiom just deserts, which simply means to receive what one deserves. It is one of the more commonly misspelled idiomatic expressions, because it uses an archaic word most people are no longer familiar with. This type of spelling error ... What does "Great Scott" Mean? Although most sources agree that the expression "Great Scott" refers to an exclamation of surprise, wonder, shock or disbelief, sources do not agree on its origin. Several sources purport that its origin relates to a colorful General in the U.S. Army, Winfield Scott. Scott, who joined the army in ... What does It Mean to be "Used As a Guinea Pig"? Animals used for laboratory tests are not selected randomly from local pet stores or breeders, but are shipped in directly from specialized companies that raise genetically pure strains. This purity eliminates many of the problems scientists face when observing the results of their experiments, since all of the animals should ... What does It Mean to "Kill Two Birds with One Stone"? The idiom “to kill two birds with one stone” is used to describe achieving two objectives at the same time. The term references a common hunting tool, the slingshot; slingshots continue to be used to hunt small birds, and at one point, they were very common. As you might imagine ... What does It Mean to be "As Clean As a Whistle"? It rarely pays to look a gift idiom in the mouth, but the comparison between cleanliness and a whistle fairly cries out for further examination. Ostensibly, to be as clean as a whistle means to be as smooth and clean as a clear-toned whistle. If too much grime builds ... What does It Mean to "Turn over a New Leaf"? The term "to turn over a new leaf" is used to refer to making a new start. It is often used specifically to describe changes in personal behavior that are made with the goal of being a better person. Many people are encouraged to do this if they struggle in ... What does "Gets my Goat" Mean? When people say that something "really gets my goat,” they mean that they are extremely irritated. A wide variety of things could contribute to irritation, ranging from someone else's actions to a series of events, but, despite the turn of phrase, goats are not usually involved. Like many colorful ... What does It Mean to "Stay the Course"? Stay the course is an idiom of the English language that means to persevere in the face of difficulty when the desired outcome is determined to be worth obstacles met along the way. This saying can be prescriptive, as a form of advice coming from another, or it can be ... What does the Expression "Gravy Train" Mean? Many people have likely heard people say things like, "So, you're riding the gravy train." This phrase is generally used interchangeably with terms like "sitting pretty," or "living on Easy Street." It means that a person's life looks good and seems to be pretty easy, as far as ... What does It Mean to "Mind Your Ps and Qs"? Mind your Ps and Qs can mean to be careful, vigilant, or, more often, polite. For example, a mother might mention that Aunt Gertrude is a stickler for manners and the children had better mind their Ps and Qs when she visits. There are several suggested origins for the phrase ... What does "Well-Heeled" Mean? The term "well-heeled" is an American expression that dates back to the mid-1800s. As town cobblers made and repaired shoes, those who could afford the repair service and/or new shoes were considered well-heeled. Well-heeled is the opposite of the American expression "down at the heels ... What does "All Intents and Purposes" Mean? The phrase for all intents and purposes or to all intents and purposes is often used in a variety of circumstances. It tends to mean under most usual circumstances, in most practical situations, or for purposes that are practical. Another interpretation could be in practical situations. The phrase originated in ... What does It Mean to "Turn the Other Cheek"? Turn the other cheek is a biblical reference mentioned in the New Testament in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus enjoins his followers, “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” In the Sermon on the Plains ... What does the Phrase "on Bended Knee" Mean? This phrase is used both literally, to refer to someone in a kneeling position, and figuratively, to describe someone making an earnest and momentous request or plea. The concept of kneeling to make requests is extremely ancient, especially in Western culture, where people have been kneeling to pray, accept honors ... What does It Mean to "Count Cards"? When people say they are going to count cards, they are referring to a strategy in which cards are tracked in order to give a slight statistical advantage in a card game. Most commonly people count cards in blackjack, although it can also be used in games such as spades ... What does It Mean to be Caught Between the "Scylla and Charybdis"? Being caught between the Scylla and Charybdis means to be caught in a situation that is extremely challenging. There is no good way to get through the situation, and any choice one makes will engender losses. The metaphor is comparable to the phrase being caught between a rock and a ... What does "Going Postal" Mean? The term “going postal” is often used in American slang to describe very sudden and extreme anger which often leads to violence. Although the term was initially used to refer to workplace violence, it is also used more generally as well. The consequences of such an episode of violence can ... What does It Mean to be "in the Black"? The phrase "in the black" is often used to refer to personal or corporate finances that are in a positive state. Essentially, it means that the individual, corporation, or non-profit organization currently has more assets than liabilities. A number of factors go into determining if the current financial status ... What does the "Full Monty" Mean? “The full Monty” is a British slang term which means “the whole thing.” Americans associate the term specifically with nudity, thanks to a 1997 British comedy film, The Full Monty, in which nudity is a major plot device. As with many colorful slang terms, the origins of “the full Monty ... What does the "Hot Seat" Mean? If you've ever faced intense scrutiny from a superior or felt compelled to defend your actions, you can honestly say you've been put in the hot seat. The term could also apply to a witness undergoing a hostile cross-examination or a corporate official called to a congressional ... What does It Mean to be a "Glutton for Punishment"? To be a glutton for punishment is an idiom that means to willfully take on difficult or disagreeable tasks that may be very uncomfortable. The word "glutton" tends to mean overeating, and originates in Latin with the related words gluttus which means greedy, and gluttires which is translated as to ... What does It Mean When Someone is Said to "Rust out"? When someone rusts out, it means that he or she becomes bored in the workplace, ultimately becoming depressed and apathetic. As a general rule, once someone starts to rust out, the quality of work goes downhill, as the employee loses interest, finding the job unfulfilling. While this phenomenon is the ... What does It Mean to "Pick Your Battles"? People use the term “pick your battles” to suggest that people would be well-advised to select a specific issue of importance to focus on, rather than trying to deal with too many things at once. Individuals may also hear this saying rendered as “choose your battles,” and many people ... What does "Pay It Forward" Mean? Paying it forward is a third-party beneficiary concept that involves doing something good for someone in response to a good deed done on your behalf or a gift you received. When you pay it forward, however, you don't repay the person who did something nice for you. Instead ... What does It Mean to "Punch a Clock"? Keeping track of the hours an employee has worked during a particular day is an important part of successfully managing a company’s payroll expenses. Workers who are paid by the hour instead of receiving a set salary for their position must punch a clock to let their employer know ... What does It Mean to Go "Back to Square One"? Going back to square one is an idiomatic expression used in both British and American English. When you have to do this, it usually means that whatever work you’ve done on a project, product, or idea has to be tossed out and you must start fresh, or begin again ... What does It Mean When Someone Makes a "Mountain out of a Molehill"? When someone is accused of making a mountain out of a molehill, the implication is that he or she is exaggerating a situation, making it seem much larger and more important than it really is. It can also be a suggestion that the person is too involved and minute to ... What does It Mean to "Open a can of Worms"? Metaphorically speaking, to open a can of worms means to inadvertently create numerous new problems while trying to solve one. Experts disagree on the origin of the phrase, but it is generally believed to be a Canadian or American metaphor coined sometime in the 1950s. Bait stores routinely sold cans ... What does It Mean to "Extend an Olive Branch"? The term "to extend an olive branch" means to make an offer of peace or reconciliation. This term has Biblical origins, coming from the section of the Old Testament that deals with the flood; the sign that the flood is over is an olive branch brought back to the ark ... What does It Mean to be "Wet Behind the Ears"? To be wet behind the ears essentially means to be inexperienced, unseasoned or even a bit naïve or immature. In the business world, this phrase is often applied to new employees who are not quite ready to accept the full responsibility of their positions yet. It is also ... What does It Mean to "Cut a Rug"? The term to "cut a rug" first started to emerge as a slang term for dancing in the 1920s. Use of the phrase persisted well into the 1940s, although the popularity of the term has since faded. An author writing in vintage vernacular might describe her characters cutting a rug ... What does "the Devil's in the Details" Mean? The slang term “the devil is in the details” has a number of different senses. All of the meanings for the term boil down to the fact that it is often the small details of something which make it difficult or challenging. These details can prolong a task, or foil ... What does It Mean to "Throw Good Money After Bad"? The idiom “to throw good money after bad” refers to a situation in which someone appears to be wasting money on a losing proposition. Many languages have some version of this idiom, reflecting the fact that wasted money is a universal problem around the world. As a general rule, people ... What does "Jumping the Couch Mean"? The phrase jumping the shark has been in use ever since the Happy Days character Fonzie water-skied over a shark in an episode of the show. This term is used when a television goes past its sell-by date and loses its appeal for the audience. The latest jumping ... What does It Mean to "Take No Prisoners"? Although the phrase “take no prisoners” sounds merciful on its surface, it usually refers to taking an overly aggressive stance in a particular situation. It usually implies that someone lacks mercy, but its broad range of applications does not always translate to being merciless. The likely origin of the phrase ... What does It Mean to "Knock on Wood"? People often knock on wood when they make a statement that seems to tempt fate. The idea is that knocking on wood will ward off evil spirits. Superstitions surrounding evil spirits are ancient, and the idea of touching wood to avoid them is also quite old. Many people in Northern ... What does It Mean to "Bite off More Than You can Chew"? When you bite off more than you can chew, it means that you have taken on too many tasks or responsibilities. As a result of taking on too much, you may fail at one or more of the tasks you have involved yourself in, and you may also experience high ... What does It Mean to "Cut Your Teeth on Something"? Everyone has to start somewhere, and that's the philosophy behind the phrase cut your teeth. To cut your teeth on something means to gain your first significant experience. Someone who is a trained chef, for example, might have gotten his start flipping hamburgers when he was a teenager. A ... What does It Mean to "Put Down Roots"? When someone is said to “put down roots,” it means that he or she intends to stay in a particular location for an extended period of time. The term is classically used in reference to moving somewhere with the intention of building a life and maintaining a permanent residence, although ... What does It Mean to be "Burned out"? The expression burned out tends to refer to people in relationship to their employment. It also can be used much more loosely by people who feel stressed or exhausted by their lives. The more clinical aspects of burnout have been studied and refined, however, to express the performance expectations of ... What does It Mean to "Count Your Chickens Before They Hatch"? Don’t count your chickens before they hatch is an old adage which means, broadly, don’t act as though you have something before you actually have it. It can be used to refer to any number of things, from physical objects to events that have not yet come to ... What does It Mean to Have "Feet of Clay"? During the early years of the Clinton administration, many citizens had developed a significant amount of admiration for the president himself. Following the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent impeachment proceedings, however, a number of those citizens became disillusioned. A hidden flaw in the president's personal character had been ... What does It Mean to Put "All Your Eggs in One Basket"? When it comes to metaphorical egg transportation, it is indeed advisable not to put all your eggs in one basket. For one thing, you may only have a finite amount of "eggs" to lose, and that "basket" may not be the sturdiest or most stable in the wagon. The expression ... What does It Mean to be "Full of Hot Air"? When someone is said to be “full of hot air,” it means that he or she talks a lot about topics that he or she doesn't really understand. This slang term has its origins in the United States, and it appears to date to the late 1800s. In addition ... What does "Let's do Lunch" Mean? The fast-paced lifestyles experienced by many players in the entertainment industry often leaves them little time to discuss new projects or meet with old friends. Consequently, the expression "Let's do lunch" has become Hollywood shorthand for planning any sort of meeting during a lunch hour. Whether or not ... What Soes It Mean to get off "Scot-Free"? Getting off scot-free refers to someone getting away without payment, either monetary or otherwise. In fact in modern usage, it often refers to suspects who are not convicted of a crime. If a person feels that the suspect should have been convicted, he might say, “That guy is getting ... What does "my Brother's Keeper" Mean? The phrase "my brother's keeper" is a reference to the Biblical story of Cain and Abel from the book of Genesis. It is generally understood to mean being responsible for the welfare of a brother or other sibling or, by extension, for other human beings in general. Cain, who ... What does It Mean to "Fall off the Wagon"? When someone is said to have fallen off the wagon, it means that he or she did something which he or she had pledged not to do. This term is often used in the context of drinking; people who try to quit drinking may struggle and fall off the wagon ... What does It Mean to "Pay Lip Service"? Particularly in the political and business arenas, there are times when a person's public words fail to match their private positions on an issue. Whenever a public official or company spokesman issues a public statement expressing full support for a particular issue, such as anti-discrimination legislation, and privately ... What does It Mean to "Jump the Shark"? To jump the shark is a term originally used as a metaphor for when a television series has passed its sell-by date. The term originated after an episode of the hit television series Happy Days. In one episode, Arthur Fonzarelli, otherwise known as The Fonz, literally water skis over ... What does "to Each His Own" Mean? Both the title of a 1946 motion picture and American standard song, the phrase to each his own generally means each person is entitled to his or her own personal tastes and opinions. This could apply to a person's choice of romantic partner or musical preference or political leanings ... What does It Mean to "Catch a Falling Knife"? To catch a falling knife is a phrase used in investing terminology to describe a risky investment strategy. If you buy a stock that is dramatically lowering in value, you do so in the hopes that it will rebound shortly after you purchase it. The danger in trying to catch ... What does It Mean to "Jump on the Bandwagon"? The expression "jump on the bandwagon" most likely entered popular lingo during the middle of the 19th century, as a reference to the colorful wagon used during pre-circus parades through host cities. Band members would ride at the top of these ornate carriages, accompanied by other performers or privileged ... What does "Across the Aisle" Mean? Reaching “across the aisle” is a phrase much bandied about, especially in American politics. The aisle in this case represents the ideological divide between politicians of different parties, especially those who serve in state legislatures or in the federal Senate or House. When a politician reaches across the aisle, he ... What does "Tongue in Cheek" Mean? When something is described as “tongue in cheek,” it means that it should not be taken seriously. This type of humor is often wry, subtle, and sometimes difficult to catch, in contrast with more blatant forms of humor. In England in particular, such jokes, fiction, and films have been elevated ... What does It Mean to "Walk the Plank"? According to literature, to walk the plank is to walk off a wooden plank extending from a ship in order to drown. One might be blindfolded, or have the hands bound to prevent people from swimming to safety. This was not actually a common practice during the glory days of ... What does It Mean to "Play Hard to get"? As with many activities in life, the thrill of the dating game is often in the chase, not the capture. The destination may be intriguing, but it's the journey that keeps the interest level high. This is the basis of playing hard to get, a relationship tactic in which ... What does "Blood is Thicker Than Water" Mean? "Blood is thicker than water" is a recognizable proverb that has surpassed the test of time. The generally accepted interpretation of the saying is that the bond of those related by blood is stronger than the bond of marriage or friendship. The origin of the saying is most often attributed ... What does "Read the Riot Act" Mean? The idiom “to read the riot act” is used to describe a firm oral reprimand given to someone or a group. For example, one might say “after she read the riot act to the boys for clowning around, they settled down.” Rowdy behavior, rambunctiousness, or rudeness could all be viewed ... What does "Let Them Eat Cake" Mean? According to historical legend, Marie Antoinette's cry of, "Let them eat cake!" was the straw that broke the camel's back during the French Revolution. The story goes that Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, was informed that her subjects were starving because they had no bread. She was so ... What does "Sleeping with the Enemy" Mean? The phrase “sleeping with the enemy” is often used to describe a situation involving a non-adversarial relationship between two individuals or entities that would normally be unfriendly or adversarial. This frequently includes business deals between competitors, joint projects tackled by enemies, and political maneuverings that require the cooperation of ... What does It Mean to get "Cold Feet"? There are any number of events in life that call for a definitive decision or commitment. A marriage ceremony, a major real estate transaction, or a life-altering medical procedure, for example, leave very little room for hesitation or second thoughts past a certain point of no return. When a ... What does It Mean to be a "Canary in a Coal Mine"? Life for an actual canary in a coal mine could be described in three words: "short but meaningful." Early coal mines did not feature ventilation systems, so legend has it that miners would bring a caged canary into new coal seams. Canaries are especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide ... What does "Three Sheets to the Wind" Mean? Among the euphemisms and colorful expressions used to describe extreme intoxication or drunkenness, the phrase three sheets to the wind often stands out as a particularly curious one. Some people might ask why three sheets as opposed to one or two, as well as what sheets have to do with ... What does It Mean to Pay Someone "Under the Table"? The phrase "paying someone under the table" refers to unreported compensation for work. This is a common type of illegal payment from an employer to an employee. Generally, both parties agree to hide the financial transaction in hopes of evading civil, criminal, tax, or immigration laws. Cash is the most ... What does It Mean to "Split the Baby"? To split the baby is a reference to a story in the Old Testament in Kings 3:5-14, regarding a decision of Solomon that shows his wisdom when given a difficult task. Solomon as king was often asked to judge between people with difficult problems, and his solutions were ... What does It Mean to "Slur Your Words"? Whenever your words run together and become unintelligible, it is said that you have begun to slur your words. This essentially means that your words are no longer forming distinctly; there are countless factors that may cause you to slur, some more serious than others. Slurred words may result from ... What does It Mean to Have "Deep Pockets"? If you have ever heard someone say, “They went after him because he has deep pockets,” you might have wondered what the reference means. To put it simply, it means that the person in question has a great deal of money or resources. When referring to a company or other ... What does "Doing Donuts" Mean? One shining example of reckless driving is a maneuver known as doing donuts, sometimes called turfing a yard or driving donuts. This involves driving a car in a tight circle while continuing to accelerate. The result is a series of circular ruts or skid marks carved out of a lawn ... What does It Mean to Like "Meat and Potatoes"? It is not unusual for people to hear someone referred to as being a “meat and potatoes” type of person. In most cases, this designation is meant to describe certain character traits possessed by the individual under consideration, and it may be used as a compliment or an insult, depending ... What does It Mean to "Double Cross" Someone? When someone is double crossed, it means that a partner backed out of a previously-reached agreement. People can double cross each other in a variety of creative ways, ranging from reneging on an agreement outright to doing the opposite of what was agreed upon. As a general rule, this ... What does It Mean When Your "Eyes are Bigger Than Your Stomach"? The saying “your eyes are bigger than your stomach” is used to chastise people who appear to be taking more food than they can possibly eat. People may also use this phrase in retrospect, indicating that they took more food than they needed, resulting in waste. Since many cultures have ... What does It Mean to be "Down in the Mouth"? When someone is said to be “down in the mouth,” it means that he or she seems depressed or dispirited. Similar terms include “in the dumps,” “feeling the blues,” or “bummed out.” Many cultures have some form of expression for describing someone who is depressed, using the turn of phrase ... What does It Mean to "Drink the Kool-Aid"? The term “drink the Kool-Aid” is used to describe blind acceptance of something, whether it be a high stress work environment, an order from a superior, or membership in a particular group. This term is commonly used in American politics and corporate culture, typically by outside commentators, who might ... What does It Mean to be "Treated with Kid Gloves"? When something or someone needs to be treated with kid gloves, this means that extra care is required. The term can be used to discuss a fragile or expensive object, or a situation which needs to be treated with tact and respect. It may also be used directly to refer ... What does "Across the Board" Mean? The phrase across the board often refers to an all-encompassing action, one that affects the entire spectrum of a group. For example, a company may decide to give all employees a 10% raise in salary. It would be fair to characterize this sweeping action as an across the board ... What does It Mean to "Hock a Loogie"? It's generally a good idea to keep most of your bodily fluids to yourself, especially if they can be described as loogies, luggies, lugies, or green spit. Others will thank you for your self-control and courtesy, trust us. But if you feel the urge to hock a loogie ... What Does "Turning of the Tide" Mean? Turning of the tide is a common phrase that references the way the tides are low and high, and the lack of control people have over the tides. When a tide turns, it goes in an opposite direction. The phrase has been used for centuries in variations. Noted examples include ... What does "Dance Around the Truth" Mean? An idiom is a phrase that uses a figurative meaning rather than a literal meaning to convey a point. In other words, one cannot deduce the meaning of an idiomatic phrase by examining the individual words and their meaning. One such expression is "dance around the truth. One does not ... What Does It Mean When Something "Costs an Arm and a Leg"? When something is said to cost an arm and a leg, it is extremely expensive. The subtext of this idiom is that the price may be exorbitant, as losing an arm and a leg would be a high price indeed. One might say, for example “coffee from that place down ... What Is Meant by "Carrying Coals to Newcastle?" The phrase, "carrying coals to Newcastle," means spending an inordinate amount of energy on something useless, fruitless, or redundant. This idiom arose in the 15th century because Newcastle, England was known throughout the country as a major exporter of coal. Therefore, "carrying coals to Newcastle" would do you no good ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "Through Thick and Thin"? The phrase “through thick and thin” is one of the oldest recorded idioms in the English language, dating back to at least the 10th century when it appeared in the Exeter Book, a collection of poetry from Anglo-Saxon England. People use this idiom when they want to describe pressing ... What is "Preaching to the Choir"? Preaching to the choir is an English idiom that means a person is trying to convince or persuade another person or group to believe in or agree with something that they already believe in or agree with. Preaching to the chorus and preaching to the converted are similar idioms with ... What is a "Stuffed Shirt"? A stuffed shirt refers to someone who is inflexible, a fuddy-duddy, or consumed with an unjustified opinion of great self-importance. The idiom can also mean someone is conservative. The idiom has come into the English language fairly recently, with a few explanations for its origins. The stuffed shirt ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "Sticks out Like a Sore Thumb"? When something sticks out like a sore thumb, it is obviously and clearly out of place. Like many interesting idioms in English, this phrase is used commonly by people who often do not stop to wonder about its origins. After all, nothing about a sore thumb seems particularly remarkable, so ... What is a "Wild Goose Chase"? A wild goose chase is a pursuit that is likely to prove pointless and unfruitful, as in “we went on a wild goose chase for the antique store she told us about, but we just couldn't find it.” This English idiom has been used since the 16th century, with ... Where did the Phrase "One Fell Swoop" Come from? People have been using the phrase “at one fell swoop” in English since the 1600s, and like many idioms, many people are entirely unaware of its origins. This phrase is generally used to mean “all at once,” in a very rapid and final sense, although one could be forgiven for ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "the Pot Calling the Kettle Black"? The term “the pot calling the kettle black” is usually used in the sense of accusing someone of hypocrisy. The origins of the phrase date back to at least the 1600s, when several writers published books or plays which included wordplays on this theme. Despite suggestions that the phrase is ... What Is a "Goody Two-Shoes"? A goody two-shoes is someone who is viewed as cloyingly virtuous, self-righteous, or prudish. You may also hear a goody two-shoes referred to as a “goody goody,” a slang term with origins linked to those of “goody two-shoes.” This particular English idiom has a rather long ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "a Sight for Sore Eyes"? The idiom “a sight for sore eyes,” meaning a welcome and pleasant event, appears to date back to at least the 1700s, although it may have been used earlier. As is often the case with well known idioms, the phrase has been borrowed by industry, as a casual survey of ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "Pearls Before Swine"? The term “pearls before swine” comes from the Sermon on the Mount, a famous speech given by Christ to his disciplines. It means that people should not waste pleasant or good things on people who will not appreciate them. The meaning of this phrase in the Sermon on the Mount ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "Let the Cat out of the Bag"? Many people use the phrase “let the cat out of the bag” to refer to divulging a secret, but they are often unaware of the colorful history behind the term. As is the case with many idioms, the origins of the phrase are actually rather interesting, and they provide an ... What do People Mean When They Refer to an "800 Pound Gorilla"? There is a classic riddle which asks where an 800 pound gorilla sits. The answer is anywhere it wants to. This is the philosophy behind the expression "800 pound gorilla," which refers to corporations, organizations or even individuals so powerful and dominant that they literally control or at least influence ... What do People Mean When They Refer to an "Elephant in the Living Room"? An elephant in your living room would be difficult to ignore for long, much like a 400 pound canary. Each of these animals have been used to refer to an obvious problem or issue that everyone acknowledges but rarely discusses. An elephant in the living room is used figuratively to ... What are the Origins of the Phrase "It's Raining Cats and Dogs"? In many English speaking areas of the world, heavy weather is sometimes described “raining cats and dogs,” suggesting that the rain is extremely heavy and rather unpleasant to be out in. A related saying from some parts of England is “raining stair-rods.” There are a number of explanations for ... What do People Mean When They Say Something Should be "Taken with a Grain of Salt"? When people say that something should be taken with a grain of salt, they mean that it is a very good idea to introduce a measure of skepticism into one's evaluation of a situation. The saying is a reminder that people often wear blinders and do not think things ... What does It Mean to "Tighten Your Belt"? To tighten your belt is an idiom which means to make financial sacrifices or to cut back on spending. During difficult economic times, it often becomes necessary to economize whenever possible. A household budget may no longer allow for luxury grocery items or unnecessary repairs, for example. A company may ... What is "Boiling the Ocean"? "Boiling the ocean" is an idiomatic phrase that can have a few related meanings. One is that it is obviously impossible to boil all of the water in the ocean, so it can refer to an impossible task — something so complicated it’s hard to know where to begin ...
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