28 May 2024

Never Tell All You Know

Q. In Agatha Christie’s 1922 The Secret Adversary, Sir James Peel Edgerton has some pointed advice for Miss Prudence Cowley –  ‘known to her intimate friends for some mysterious reasons as “Tuppence.” Sir James’ nugget? “Great mistake to say too much. Remember that. Never tell all you know – not

20 May 2024

Close, But No Cigar

Q. Mrs. Hodgepodge nearly did it. Her cabbage jelly was almost the best at the fair – second place – but it didn’t win. ‘Close, but no cigar.’ It’s a phrase we’ll throw out there without thinking, but where does it originate? . A. ‘Close, but no cigar’ is said

06 May 2024

Tudor Bonnets And Spy Balloons

Q. What are some of the lucky words that have been bestowed official word status in the 2024 Oxford dictionary? . A. With a 150-year history and 500,000 word and phrase entries, the Oxford Dictionary is ever evolving. In March of this year, the OED added 1,000 new or revised

25 Apr 2024

Such A Wet Blanket

Q. It’s all fun and games until you-know-who shows up to suck all the fun out of the air. Such a wet blanket. How is it that fun-suckers came to be known as ‘wet blankets’? . A. Well, there is certainly nothing fun about pulling your favourite blanket out of

13 Apr 2024

In Hot Water

Q. You’re ‘in hot water.’ It’s a mess; trouble is brewing. Where does this phrase originate? . A. These origin stories are no joke. Some claim that the phrase is rooted in people spilling boiling water on themselves whilst cooking 😬. Others insist that the idea of being ‘in hot

02 Apr 2024

Over The Moon

Q. You’re happy, you’re thrilled, you’re ‘over the moon.’ What’s the origin of this space-hurtling idiom? . A. The idea that happiness = ‘over the moon’ is rooted in the much-chanted ‘Hey Diddle Diddle’ Mother Goose nursery rhyme… Hey Diddle, Diddle Hey, diddle, diddle, The cat and the fiddle, The

15 Mar 2024

Hit The Sack

Q. Is the English language really that hard to learn? Yes. Yes it is. Our encyclopedic collection of idioms does not help. Exhibit Number One: ‘hit the sack.’ Which sack are we hitting and why? Is this some sort of madcap carnival game? Where did this idiom originate? . A.

22 Feb 2024

Slang Parents Hate

Q. Want to see a teenager cringe? Encourage Mum and/or Dad to throw in some ‘hip’ slang during carpool. “Oof. That sounds sus. He just salty because of your drip. Bet!” . 🤦🏽‍♀️ . How to rescue horrified teens from parental slangicide? . A. Perhaps the best slang words are

17 Feb 2024

Beautiful Old

Q. How do the words we use affect our impressions of people, places, ideas or things that are ‘old?’ . A. Kintsugi. It’s a gorgeous word used to describe the Japanese practice of repairing broken ceramics with gold-dusted tree sap lacquer. No tossing that vase because it’s broken in half.

28 Jan 2024

Victorian Trash Talk

Q. Victorians were nothing if not colourful with their slang. A sampling? . . A. Here’s a few gems from James Redding Ware’s 1909 ‘Passing English of the Victorian Era’, with definitions tweaked in our own words … . Barber’s cat A man who is thin Born a bit tired