Showing posts with label Wordology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wordology. Show all posts

Dec 7, 2018


If something is run of the mill, it is average, ordinary, not special. It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It is material that has been manufactured, before it is decorated or embellished.

The expression you have your work cut out for you comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we do not use the expression that way. It is more that the task is ready to be tackled, but the difficult part is laying out the pieces in order, and doing the actual sewing.

Dec 1, 2018


Push the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are.

Go haywire relates to actual haywire. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold many things together in a makeshift way, so a patched-up place came to be referred to as 'a hay-wire outfit'. It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself became easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the use of the phrase.

Nov 2, 2018

Wordology, Break the Ice

It means to do or say something to relieve tension or get conversation going in a strained situation.

In the old days, commercial ships would often get stuck in frozen rivers during winter, so smaller ships called icebreakers would come to clear a path to shore by breaking the ice. During the 17th century, people began to use the phrase to mean "to reduce tension in a social situation."

Wordology, Put a Sock In It

This means stop talking. It comes from the late 19th century when people would use woolen socks to stuff the horns of their gramophones or record players to lower the sound, because these machines had no volume controllers.

Oct 27, 2018

Wordology, Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

It means to find fault with something that has been received as a gift or favor.

Long ago when buying a horse, people would determine the horse’s age and condition based on its teeth, and then decide whether they want to buy it or not. This is the reason why people use this idiom to say it is rude to look for flaws in a thing that was given to you as a gift.

Aug 3, 2018

Wordology, Pipe Dream

A 'pipe dream' is an unrealistic hope or fantasy. It is a reference to the strange dreams people have when smoking opium pipes. The term was used as early as the 1800s in America.

Wordology, Onychophagia

This is the technical term for biting your nails. It ranges from 20 to 33% during childhood and approximately 45% of teenagers are nail biters. By the age of 18 years the frequency of nail biting decreases; however it does persist in some adults

Jun 8, 2018

Wordology, Cherophobia

It is the fear of being happy, stemming from the Greek word chairo, which means 'I rejoice'. Some people are afraid of happiness and joy. They avoid activities and social events they think will be fun. It is usually a defense mechanism that stems from trauma or conflict. According to Healthline, some medical experts classify cherophobia as a form of anxiety.

Wordology, Whopping

This is an interesting word and not as popular as it used to be. It has many definitions, but Whopping and Wopping are two different words, often misused. Wopping is a bit more slang and I will skip that definition.
Whopping is the act of physically beating a person until they can no longer stand. It is also a heavy blow or the sound made by such a blow.
Examples: Planned spending amounts to a whopping fifty billion dollars,
Footballers in whopping studded boots approach the field,
A 100g portion gives a whopping ten teaspoons of sugar.

Incidentally, I enjoy spending a whopping amount of time putting this stuff together for your reading pleasure.

Jul 28, 2016

Wordology, On Accident, By Accident

A survey by Indiana State University indicates that people born after 1990 almost always say 'on accident', and are not aware that 'by accident' is proper usage. Those born before 1970 almost always say 'by accident'. 

Jun 3, 2016

Wordology, Whet One’s Appetite

This means to arouse interest in something, usually food. The whet in 'whet one’s appetite' refers to a sharpening, as in sharpening one’s interest in something. Someone may whet your appetite by providing a small taste, an example or enticing description that makes you want more of the item in question or to know more about a subject. Whet one’s appetite dates back to the early 1600s to describe stimulating an appetite for food. Whet is a verb, to sharpen, as on a whetstone, or to make more aware.

Feb 5, 2016


Disinterested means unbiased and does not mean uninterested.
Correct: "The dispute should be resolved by a disinterested judge." / Why are you so uninterested in my story?

Enervate means to sap or to weaken and does not mean to energize.
Correct: That was an enervating rush hour commute. / That was an energizing cappuccino.

Hung means suspended and does not mean suspended from the neck until dead.
Correct: I hung the picture on my wall. / The prisoner was hanged.

Interesting word thought - If womb is pronounced woom and tomb is pronounced toom, why isn't bomb pronounced boom?

Sep 11, 2015

Wordology, Justiciable, Moot, and Unripe

Justiciability is one of several criteria that the United States Supreme Court use to make a judgment. In order for an issue to be justiciable (liable to be tried in court) by a United States federal court, all of the following conditions must be met.
The parties must not be seeking an advisory opinion.

There must be an actual controversy between the parties, meaning that the parties cannot agree to a lawsuit where all parties seek the same particular judgment from the court (known as a friendly suit); the parties must each be seeking a different outcome.

The question must be neither unripe nor moot.
   An unripe question is one for which there is not yet at least a threatened injury to the plaintiff, or where all available judicial alternatives have not been exhausted.
   A moot question is one for which the potential for an injury to occur has ceased to exist, or where the injury has been removed.

Aug 21, 2015

Wordology, Want, Wont and Won't

The first two words are pronounced the same, but mean two different things.

Want means ‘desire something’ or ‘wish for something': I want to stay here, he wants to speak, etc.

Wont means in the habit or tendency doing something, or of a characteristic of something. such as, “Tomorrow will be quiet, as Sundays are wont to be” or "He writes every day as he is wont to do."

Neither should be confused with the contraction of will not. Won't is used to express the future and meaning 'will not' as in, I won’t be here tomorrow.

Feb 20, 2015

Wordology, By Hook or By Crook

This was first used during the 14th century, it refers to peasants pulling down branches for firewood using either a bill-hook (long handle saw with curved blade) or a shepherd’s crook (walking staff with curved handle). It is an old phrase that describes any means possible, but it has no relation to criminals.

Dec 7, 2013

Wordology from the Comics

Many words we use actually came from newspaper comics. Here are a few:
Goon - The word “goon” to describe a simpleton or stupid person dates back to the 16th century, when sailors sometimes compared folks to the albatross, often colloquially referred to as a “gooney bird.” However, “goon,” when used to describe a muscular, not-so-bright, hired thug, comes from the Popeye comic strip, notably Alice the Goon, an eight-foot tall giantess with hairy forearms.

Wimpy - J. Wellington Wimpy was a hamburger loving soul and also a character in the Popeye comics. While the word “wimp” is from World War I, the soft-spoken, intelligent, cowardly Wimpy gave us a way to describe being a wimp.

Dagwood Sandwich - A Dagwood is any stacked sandwich that consists of a variety of meats, cheeses, and other condiments. Dagwood Bumstead, husband in the Blondie comics built the piled-high wonders out of anything and everything he could find in the refrigerator.

Milquetoast - Someone who is even wimpier than Wimpy is a total milquetoast, as in Caspar Milquetoast, a character from a one-panel comic strip by H.T. Webster called The Timid Soul. Caspar’s surname was a play on the bland dish called milktoast that was often served to invalids or folks with “nervous” stomachs. Caspar Milquetoast was a guy who would buy a new hat rather than trespass when his blew off his head and onto a lawn with a “Keep Off the Grass” sign.

Mutt and Jeff - Mutt and Jeff were two comic strip characters created by Bud Fisher in 1907. Augustus Mutt was a tall, lanky ne’er-do-well who liked to bet on the ponies, while his pal Othello Jeff was short, rotund, and shared Mutt's passion for “get rich quick” schemes. The strip became so popular that “Mutt and Jeff” is used to describe any duo displaying opposite physical characteristics.

Keeping up with the Joneses - You have likely wondered who are these Joneses. In the comic strip of their origin, they were never seen. Keeping Up with the Joneses was written and drawn by Arthur “Pop” Momand and was first published in the New York Globe in 1913. The strip followed the daily life of the Aloysius P. McGinnis family, and Mrs. McGinnis’ envy of their wealthy neighbors, the Joneses. Al endured his wife outfitting him in “trendy” clothing like lime-green spats and lemon-colored gloves, because that is how Mr. Jones dressed.

Dinty Moore - Both the Hormel canned stew and the triple-decker corned beef/lettuce/tomato/Russian dressing sandwich that bear this name were inspired by the tavern owner in the popular George McManus comic strip Bringing Up Father. Maggie and Jiggs were Irish-American immigrants who won a million dollars in a sweepstakes. Maggie eagerly adapted to their new lifestyle, but former bricklayer Jiggs missed his boisterous pals and frequently sneaked off to hang with them at Dinty Moore’s, where they would feast on corned beef and cabbage and Irish stew while enjoying a few toddys.

Whammy and Double Whammy -  According to the comic strip Li'l Abner, Evil-Eye Fleagle was a zoot-suited hood who came from Brooklyn, New York. He could shoot beams of destruction from his eyes. A regular whammy could knock a dozen men unconscious and the double whammy could collapse a building. I trust these provided a 'Linus blanket' for your curiosity.

Oct 25, 2013


Dysania means having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. Griffonage means illegible handwriting. Acnestis is the area between your shoulder blades. Semordnilap is a word or phrase that reads one way forward and another backward (parts/strap). Scroop is the sound produced by the movement of silk, as in long dresses. Penthera phobia is fear of your mother-in-law.

Punt is the indent on the bottom of a wine bottle. Agraffe is the wire that keeps the cork on a bottle of champagne. Barm is the foam on the top of a glass of beer. Box Tent is the little plastic piece used in pizza boxes to keep the top from smashing the pizza. Kemmerspeck is the weight gained from emotional overeating (literally grease bacon).

String is a group of ponies. Business is an assembly of ferrets. Smack is a group of jellyfish. Gam is a group of whales. Murder is a group of crows. Trip is a group of goats. Parliament is a group of owls. Pass is a group of donkeys. Prickle is a group of porcupines.

Nov 23, 2012

Wordology, Racking

Rack likely comes from the Middle Dutch “rec”, meaning 'framework', and the Old English 'recken', meaning 'to stretch out'. Usage became the word used for a frame that you put things on to dry or to stretch something out on.

Later the word also came to mean a frame for putting people on for torture. This expanded the meaning to include causing mental or physical harm or suffering or to stretch or strain. So, when someone says they are racking their brain, it means they are straining their brain. I reckin this stuff is true.

Oct 12, 2012

Wordology, Naked and Nude

Naked implies unprotected or vulnerable or without clothes. It also describes something that is without embellishment, as in the 'naked truth' or without aid, as in 'seen by the naked eye'. Nude means one thing, unclothed.

Oct 5, 2012

Wordology, Grand Slam

The immediate origin was from the card game, Bridge. Grand slam means to take all 13 tricks in a hand.

It has since come to take on other meanings, such as in tennis to win all four major singles titles; the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the US Open in one year. A grand slam in golf is to win; Masters Tournament, U.S. Open, British Open, and  PGA Championship in one year. It is used in baseball to signify hitting a home run with all bases loaded.

Chess, Curling, Rugby, and other sports each have a grand slam definition of their own,

Denny's restaurant chain is famous for its Grand Slam breakfasts consisting of various combinations of meat, eggs, bread, and pancakes. We also cannot forget Grand Slam Pizza in Dripping Springs, Texas.