Recommended Reading: Origins of 10 Familiar Phrases

( — We writers are a curious bunch, no? If you’ve ever wondered about any of the following phrases, this article is for you:

  1. “At the drop of a hat”
  2. “Beat the tar out of”
  3. “Buckle down to work”
  4. “As fit as a fiddle”
  5. “To skin a cat”
  6. “Start from scratch”
  7. “Under the weather”
  8. “Paddywagon”
  9. “Kick the bucket”
  10. “Eating humble pie”

Any phrases that stump you? Leave them in the comments and we’ll see what we can find out.

Contents Copyright © 2006-2014 Kristen King

3 comments… add one
  • Benjamin Lukoff Jan 10, 2009

    Hmmm.. Mental Floss? Take what they say with a grain of salt. I just read their History of the World and there are more than a few urban legends and folk etymologies in there. I am at least happy to see that the author has an MPhil and PhD in Linguistics from University of Exeter, though. I’d definitely trust her more than I’d trust some of the comment posters!

    Benjamin Lukoff
    (MA English Language [Modern], University College London)

    Benjamin Lukoff´s last blog post..Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper, city’s oldest business, to close or drop print if no buyers

  • Dick Margulis Jan 10, 2009

    I realize that you’re just linking third-hand to the book that’s the source of these so-called phrase origins, but please realize that some of them are wildly speculative or, in some cases, just plain wrong. So read them for entertainment value, but don’t go spreading them around at cocktail parties.

    Dick Margulis´s last blog post..Person the barricades!

  • Kyle O'Connor Jan 12, 2009

    The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer is a great resource for stuff like this.

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