Week of October 16 – Where did that phrase originate?October 16, 2011
Barking up the wrong tree – The allusion is to hunting dogs barking at the bottom of trees where they mistakenly think their quarry is hiding.
As happy as a clam – ‘as happy as a clam at high water’. Hide tide is when clams are free from the attentions of predators; surely the happiest of times in the bivalve mollusc world.
Close but no surprise – The phrase, and its variant ‘nice try, but no cigar’, are of US origin and date from the mid-20th century. Fairground stalls gave out cigars as prizes, and this is the most likely source.
Jump the Shark-To reach the point in a TV series that denotes it is irretrievably past its best by introducing some ridiculous or otherwise unbelievable plot device or characterisation in order to boost ratings. (The phrase derives from a scene in the three-part ‘Hollywood’ episode of the American TV series Happy Days, broadcast in September 1977. The scene has ‘The Fonz’ (Henry Winkler), water skiing – unaccountably still wearing his trademark leather jacket – and jumping over a shark.)
If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – “Favorite rejoinder of Senator Harry S. Truman, when a member of his war contracts investigating committee objects to his strenuous pace: ‘If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen’.”
Face the Music – A commonly repeated assertion is that ‘face the music’ originated from the tradition of disgraced officers being “drummed out” of their regiment.
Spill the Beans – The derivation of this expression is sometimes said to be a voting system used in ancient Greece. The story goes that white beans indicated positive votes and black beans negative. Votes had to be unanimous, so if the collector ‘spilled the beans’ before the vote was complete and a black bean was seen, the vote was halted.
Whoops-a-daisy – The form in which it is now most commonly spoken and spelled is ‘oops-a-daisy’. The first known printed record of any form of the term is in Clough Robinson’s The dialect of Leeds and its neighbourhood, 1862: Upsa daesy! a common ejaculation when a child, in play, is assisted in a spring-leap from the ground.
Other derivations: Upsidaisy, Upsa daesy, Upsy-daisy, Oops-a-daisy, Oopsy-daisy and Hoops-a-daisy← Week of October 9 – Sinister cartoon characters Week of October 23 – Unusual, unique and uncommon facts →