Tag: Idioms

Not my circus, not my monkeys. Idiom usage

Idioms from other languages
Are these your monkeys?

Not my circus. Not my monkeys. I did a double take. I was having coffee with my Irish friend Paul and he was throwing this phrase around throughout our conversation. He was clearly trying to make a point.

Black swan, a label for COVID-19

Black swan as a metaphor for unprecedented events

In much of my research for clients in the past couple of months I have often seen the term black swan. As I know swans to be white in most cases, I was intrigued by this phrase suddenly popping up all over the place.

The term black swan has come to be associated with COVID-19 and its various impacts.

Hanged for a sheep as a lamb: idioms

My crimes are small. Stealing pens from the office, wishing ill will against my husband, and using a credit card which refuses to close no matter how many times I phone to request this. I must say I am enjoying this free money and the guilt has all but evaporated.

Limelight or spotlight? Use the right phrase.

Novak Djokovic enjoys the limelight

The English language is full of tricks and words of similar meaning that are confusing to second language speakers.

One of these is limelight and spotlight. While some believe that to be in the limelight and under the spotlight are much the same, I think they are quite different.

Black Friday and bargain idioms

Madness

When Game of Thrones captured the imagination of millions of fans to an obsessive degree, I used to say, “You get two kinds of people – those who watch Game of Thrones and those who do not.” I was in the ‘do not’ camp.

Take the log out of your eye and other idioms

Last night while watching Come Dine With Me, I latched on to satirist David Lamb’s shortening of an idiom. He simply used the two words of comparison and said, pot/ kettle Terence, to suggest he had a blind spot.

Keep the ball rolling with these idioms

pic by Joel Muniz

This week I received a rather disturbing SMS from my bank. In fact, this was the second time the bank was sending this alarming message. The first time, I checked my various banking accounts and could find nothing irregular. I assumed the bank was sending this message to the wrong customer.

A work of sedulous magnificence

Deliciously sedulous : increase your word power

A work of sedulous magnificence
Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco, a fine sedulous work

 

I am catching up with the past, voraciously reading through the pages of William Styron’s Sophie’s Choice with a copyright date of 1979. A literary marvel, the author provides delightful entertainment from the first page to the last.

How to keep your powder dry in the 21st century. Idioms from the military

Keeping one’s options open, is an overused phrase in today’s demanding lifestyle. But its non-committal tone, sounds like its primary use would be by people suffering from FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

 

I was staggered then, when my husband referred to his military training while discussing our travel plans. He said, “I’m trying to work out how to keep my powder dry.” I gave him that ‘lost the plot’ look as I’m the literary part of this coupling and he, the practical.  But when he explained its origin to gun powder I had to sit up and take note.

Hence, Wikipedia enlightens: “Trust in God and keep your powder dry. … “Trust in God and keep your powder dry” is a maxim attributed to Oliver Cromwell, but which first appeared in 1834 in the poem “Oliver’s Advice” by William Blacker with the words “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!”

The Phrase Finder says the idiom means to be prepared and save your resources until they are needed.

Its origin is from the allusion to gunpowder which soldiers had to keep dry to be ready to fight when required. This advice reputedly originated with Oliver Cromwell during his campaign in Ireland. In Ballads of Ireland, 1856, Edward Hayes wrote:

“There is a well-authenticated anecdote of Cromwell. On a certain occasion, when his troops were about crossing a river to attack the enemy, he concluded an address, couched in the usual fanatic terms in use among them, with these words – ‘put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry’.”

19th century citations of the phrase invariably give the full version – trust in God and keep your powder dry. This emphasises that ‘keep your powder dry’ was seen only as an additional insurance. This is made clear in a piece from The Times Literary Supplement, 1908:

“In thus keeping his powder dry the bishop acted most wisely, though he himself ascribes the happy result entirely to observance of the other half of Cromwell’s maxim.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/217500.html

Finedictionary.com says it means ‘to remain cautious and ready for a possible emergency.’

The dictionary has a list of examples of its use in literature but does not provide dates in all instances.

  • We’ll crouch against the wall, Ned, and keep our rifles, powder and ourselves as dry as possible.” The Texan Star” by Joseph A. Altsheler
  • Keep your powder dry, and trust in Providence, is the motto of the wise. “The Second Thoughts of An Idle Fellow” by Jerome K. Jerome
  • So long as the enemy sticks to the wood all we can do is to wait and keep our powder dry.” In the Field (1914-1915)” by Marcel Dupont. http://www.finedictionary.com/Keep%20the%20powder%20dry.html

Now I’m glad I have a military reference for the next time I have to be indecisive and weigh up my options before making a commitment.

Can you meet me at Wednesday at 3pm? “Well, I’m keeping my powder dry and I can only confirm on Wednesday morning,” I’ll say.

Keeping one’s options open, is an overused phrase in today’s demanding lifestyle. But its non-committal tone, sounds like its primary use would be by people suffering from FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.

I was staggered then, when my husband referred to his military training while discussing our travel plans. He said, “I’m trying to work out how to keep my powder dry.” I gave him that ‘lost the plot’ look as I’m the literary part of this coupling and he, the practical.  But when he explained its origin to gun powder I had to sit up and take note.

Hence, Wikipedia enlightens: “Trust in God and keep your powder dry. … “Trust in God and keep your powder dry” is a maxim attributed to Oliver Cromwell, but which first appeared in 1834 in the poem “Oliver’s Advice” by William Blacker with the words “Put your trust in God, my boys, and keep your powder dry!”

The Phrase Finder says the idiom means to be prepared and save your resources until they are needed.

Its origin is from the allusion to gunpowder which soldiers had to keep dry to be ready to fight when required. This advice reputedly originated with Oliver Cromwell during his campaign in Ireland. In Ballads of Ireland, 1856, Edward Hayes wrote:

“There is a well-authenticated anecdote of Cromwell. On a certain occasion, when his troops were about crossing a river to attack the enemy, he concluded an address, couched in the usual fanatic terms in use among them, with these words – ‘put your trust in God; but mind to keep your powder dry’.”

19th century citations of the phrase invariably give the full version – trust in God and keep your powder dry. This emphasises that ‘keep your powder dry’ was seen only as an additional insurance. This is made clear in a piece from The Times Literary Supplement, 1908:

“In thus keeping his powder dry the bishop acted most wisely, though he himself ascribes the happy result entirely to observance of the other half of Cromwell’s maxim.” http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/217500.html

Finedictionary.com says it means ‘to remain cautious and ready for a possible emergency.’

The dictionary has a list of examples of its use in literature but does not provide dates in all instances.

  • We’ll crouch against the wall, Ned, and keep our rifles, powder and ourselves as dry as possible.” The Texan Star” by Joseph A. Altsheler
  • Keep your powder dry, and trust in Providence, is the motto of the wise. “The Second Thoughts of An Idle Fellow” by Jerome K. Jerome

Now I’m glad I have a military reference for the next time I have to be indecisive and weigh up my options before making a commitment.

Can you meet me at Wednesday at 3pm? “Well, I’m keeping my powder dry and I can only confirm on Wednesday morning,” I’ll say.

Through the eye of the needle: biblical idioms

The English language is so rich and diverse that one lifetime is just not enough to master all of it.

But I have discovered that as much as English owes many of its idioms to the writings of the great Shakespeare, the bible has made a significant contribution of its own.

I hasten to add at this point, that researching Shakespearean idiomatic origins is a whole lot easier than that of biblical references.

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