Tag Archives: Idiom Origins

Ball of Wax

What was said? We really need a way to communicate this “ball of wax.”

Did someone really say that? Yes, when discussing how to help a client explain their business services/value!

What does it mean? It basically refers to EVERYTHING. The whole thing!

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Eating someone out of house and home

What was said? We are eating ourselves out of “house and home” before we go to the grocery store again.

Did someone really say that? Yes, my husband when explaining to friends that we haven’t been to the grocery store in 2 weeks and have so much food in the fridge/freezer!

What does it mean? Basically to go through someone’s food supply/storage so that there is almost nothing left.

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Harebrained Scheme

What was said? It’s just another one of his harebrained schemes.

Did someone really say that? Yes, when referring to a colleague’s bright idea that seemed to lead no where.

What does it mean? It basically refers to an idea that seems foolish or doesn’t make much sense.

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Size up the Breadbox or Is it Bigger than a Breadbox?

Steve Allen on “What’s My Line?”

What was said? We really have to “size up the bread box” very quickly to know what we are dealing with.

Did someone really say that? Yes – twice! In the same meeting when discussing a new project and not being 100% sure about the project scope, amount of data we had to process, etc.

What does it mean? It basically means that we don’t know the size of the item in question (the project itself in the case above) and an attempt to gauge the size by comparing it to a “standard” breadbox.

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Rope-A-Dope

What was said? “We’ll just Rope-A-Dope until the change comes through.”

Did someone really say that? Yes, at a meeting when discussing upcoming changes to a marketing program and how the program will be affected (if at all).

What does it mean? Basically, in this context, the plan was to “lay low” or resume business as usual until the change to the program actually happens.

Origin: The term originated in the 1970s and refers to a move by Muhammad Ali, and his tactic in a boxing match with George Foreman in the infamous “Rumble in the Jungle” match. Foreman was favored to win and during the fight, Ali purposely provoked Foreman into attacking and forcing him with his back on the ropes.  The tactic allows the boxer (in this case Ali) to take a protected stance and allow the blow of the punches from Foreman to be absorbed by the ropes and not just his body so he can prepare for a counter-attack. The idea to use the move by Ali was apparently suggested to him by boxing photographer George Kalinsky who told him: “Why don’t you try something like that? Sort of a dope on the ropes, letting Foreman swing away but, like in the picture, hit nothing but air.” Some believe that Muhammad Ali coined the phrase, and others that publicist John Condon polished the phrase into “rope-a-dope” (originally known as “the turtle”).

 In business, or non-boxing setting, the term has come to be used as a “rope-a-dope” strategy referring to any strategy where an apparent “losing” or passive, not aggressive position is assumed in the hope of eventual victory – so in the case above, staying the course of action allows us to win in the end when changes hit the program !

Sources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rope-a-dope
http://www.yourdictionary.com/rope-a-dope
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/rope-a-dope
http://en.espn.co.uk/onthisday/sport/story/319.html
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Muhammad-Ali-boxer#ref1133296

REFERRALS:  Do you LOVE Rema’s Idiom Blog and look forward to it all the time? If so, refer your friends!

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Oh My Stars (and Garters)!

VS OhMyStars

What was said? “OH MY STARS”

Did someone really say that? It’s printed on the backside of a pair of women underwear at Victoria Secret (which I know now thanks to a present from my friend Lindsay!)

What does it mean? In a nutshell, a comedic expression of surprise / shock.

Origin: In 1593, Christopher Marlowe used the expression without the “garter” in a play The Troublesome Raigne and Lamentable Death of Edward the Second: “O my stares! Why do you lower (bring down in rank) unkindly on a king?” The stars in question refer to the astrological stars and one’s disposition in life.

In the 19th century, the expression began to be used in a lighter, more comedic expression to signify surprise. There are other versions, however.

The expression is believed to have also began in the UK as “oh my stars and garters” and refers to honors and awards received as achievements (not referring to the astrological stars). For instance, there was a “Noble Order of the Garter” which was the highest order in the English knighthood founded by Edward III in 1344. This chivalrous medal was in the form of a star like many other medals in Britain. Stars and Garters became the generic name referring to the medals to the group of individuals who had them. The earliest written reference of the phrase was in Alexander Pope’s “The Rape of the Lock” in 1712: “While Peers, and Dukes, and all their sweeping train, And Garters, Stars and Coronets appear.”

 Other expressions that are very similar with “stars” in mind: Bless my stars and Thank my lucky stars! Other expressions that lightly tread upon surprise / astonishment: By golly, Oh my!, Oh my gosh, My My, Dear Me, Crikey!

Sources:
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hobson’s%20choice
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hobsons-choice.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_choice
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_fork
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MortonsFork

REFERRALS:  Do you LOVE Rema’s Idiom Blog and look forward to it all the time? If so, refer your friends!

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Hobson’s Choice

take it or leave itWhat was said? “What is it when there’s no right answer to the question? A Hobson’s Choice?”

Did someone really say that? Yes, at work the other day, when presented with two options, neither being good ones, a coworker asked that question aloud…

What does it mean? It actually means a question where really only one option is offered, so you have to “take it or leave it” so to speak. It gives a false illusion of a “choice.”

Origin: The story goes that a Thomas Hobson (1544–1631) ran a carrier and horse rental business in Cambridge, England, where he rented out horses but refused to hire them out other than in the order he chose. The choice he gave his customers was ‘this or none’; quite literally, meaning not their choice but Hobson’s choice.

A well known “Hobson’s choice” was Henry Ford’s offer of the Model-T, “you can pick any color, as long it’s black!”  The expression is best known in the UK, but became used worldwide following the successful eponymous 1954 film starring Charles Laughton.

NOTE: I believe the use of “Hobson’s Choice” when I first heard it was not accurate, it was more of a “Morton’s Fork” which is being presented with two equivalent choices in which contradictory arguments lead to the same conclusion.

Sources:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Hobson’s%20choice
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hobsons-choice.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobson%27s_choice
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morton%27s_fork
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MortonsFork

REFERRALS:  Do you LOVE Rema’s Idiom Blog and look forward to it all the time? If so, refer your friends!

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