Phrases, Clichés, Expressions & Sayings
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Caesar salad
 
Meaning:
Example:
Origin: Caesar salad was created in 1924 by Caesar Cardini (1896-1956) at his Italian restaurant (Caesar's Restaurant) in Tijuana, Mexico. Initially, his Caesar salad was made with whole leaves of romaine lettuce, tossed at the table and eaten with the fingers, and was intended as an entrée. Today, served at restaurants of every type, it's a salad of convenience and often includes chicken or beef. When the salad was first introduced though, the non-vegetable ingredients were strictly seafood such as anchovies and shrimp. Caesar Cardini was born near Lago Maggiore, Italy, in 1896. He and his brother Alex emigrated to the U.S. after World War I. The Cardini's lived in San Diego but operated their restaurant in Tijuana to circumvent Prohibition.

Alternate: Paul Maggiora, a partner of the Cardini's, claimed to have tossed the first Caesar's salad in 1927 for American airmen from San Diego and called it “Aviator's Salad”. Caesar's brother Alex had claimed to have developed the salad (he too allegedly called it “aviator's salad”). Livio Santini claimed he made the salad from a recipe of his mother, in the kitchen of Caesar's restaurant when he was 18 years old, in 1925, and that Caesar took the recipe from him.

More info on The History of Caesar Salad

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Caesarian section

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Called on the carpet
 
Meaning: To be held accountable for a mistake, offense, or a lie.
Example: Jennifer's loafing at work finally caught up with her. She was called on the carpet for not spending enough time @ joe-ks.com.
Origin: In military parlance, called on the carpet refers to having to present oneself to a superior officer, report at attention and receive a disciplining for some offense. Sometimes a defense is allowed, but often, the communication is quite simple, clear, and unidirectional, with the recipient being forced to stand at attention while the abuse takes place.

Although no longer true, there was a time when only the top officers had carpet in their offices. Hence the carpet referred to the office of a senior officer.

The term is also used in the business world. To carpet someone goes back to the days of the Victorian Civil Service when attainment of a certain status carried with it the right to a piece of carpet in the office.

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Can it
 
Meaning: Stop what you are doing or saying.
Example: You're playing your music too load - can it!
Origin: Short for “cancel it”.

Alternative: Put it in a garbage can.

Alternative: Canning is the process of sealing food in jars to preserve it. To can something is to seal it up and put it away.

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Can of worms
 
Meaning: A complex, troublesome situation arising when a decision or action produces considerable subsequent problems.
Example: Tackling budget cuts at City Hall opened a can of worms.
Origin: This phrase originated in the old days when cans of food started to rot.

Alternative: It’s a Canadian or American metaphor coined sometime in the 1950s. Bait stores sold cans of worms (and other popular live baits) to fishermen, who often discovered how easy it was to open a can of worms - and how difficult it was to close one. Once the worms escaped though, it became nearly impossible to keep them contained.

Related phrases: “Don’t open up a can of worms” and “Opening Pandora’s box”.

see also Rembrandt’s Anatomy Lessons where Rembrandt opens up the World's 1st Can Of Worms

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Can’t get a word in edgewise
 
Meaning: Unable to break into a conversation, no pause in a discussion.
Example: Don’t you girls ever shut up? I can’t get a word in edgewise.
Origin: If you can imagine a string of continuous printed text, and a single word attempting to wedge its way into that text. The easiest way to find space for that word would be to turn that word on its edge, to make it very thin, as in the profile of a printed word. If you can’t get the word in edgewise, then there must be no break or room in the text or conversation.

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Can’t hold a candle to
 
Meaning: To be far less competent or have far less skills than someone else.
Example: When it comes to performance, Corvette can’t hold a candle to Porsche.
Origin: Before electric lights, someone performing a task in the dark needed a helper to hold a candle to provide light while the task was performed. Much as a helper might hold a flashlight today.

Holding the candle is of course the less challenging role. Someone who is not even qualified to hold the candle is much less competent than the person performing the actual task.

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Carry the can
 
Meaning: To take the blame for something in which others have also taken part and are largely responsible.
Example:
Origin: The origin probably goes back to the days of servitude when menial tasks had to be performed for the benefit of others, such as the scullery maid working for the head cook.

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Cat bird seat
 
Meaning: A highly advantaged position, to have it all.
Example: Some might describe Bill Gates as sitting in the cat bird seat.
Origin: Mocking birds are sometimes referred to as cat birds. Mocking birds typically sit at the top of a tree. Hence the cat bird seat is at the top.

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(A) cat has nine lives
 
Meaning:
Example:
Origin: Recorded in 1546, this old English saying goes back well before the 16th Century. Cats were regarded as tenacious of life because of their careful, suspicious nature and because they are supple animals that can survive long falls (thought not from the top of a skyscraper as some believe).

Alternative: This phrase comes from an old Irish legend about witches who turned themselves into cats and into people eight times. On the ninth time, on August 17th, they couldn’t turn back. August was thought to be a “yowly” time for cats, and could have prompted speculation about witches on the prowl.

See also “Cat nights begin

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Cat nights begin
 
Meaning:
Example:
Origin: This phrase comes from an old Irish legend about witches who turned themselves into cats and into people eight times. On the ninth time, on August 17th, they couldn’t turn back. August was thought to be a “yowly” time for cats, and could have prompted speculation about witches on the prowl.

See also 'A cat has nine lives'

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Cat-o'-nine-tails
Meaning: A scourging applied across the back.
Example:
Origin: The first Egyptian scourges were made of thongs of cat hide. The nine tails of the scourge, similar to the “nine lives” of a cat, could also have suggested the name. “Cat” alluded to the scratches that the knotted ends of the lash made on the victim’s back, like those from a cat’s claws. Scourging criminal offenders with a whip is an old punishment. There are cases in medieval England of prisoners receiving 60,000 strips from whips with three lashes and 20 knots in each tail. But the cat-o’-nine-tails, composed of one 18-inch handle with nine tails and three or more knots on each tail, only dates back to about 1670. Men were flayed alive with this scourge, which people believed was more holy, and thus effective, because its nine tails were a “trinity of trinities” (3 X 3 = 9). Source: “Word And Phrase Origins”, Robert Hendrickson.

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Catch 22
 
Meaning: A “no win” situation - one where, whatever happens, there will almost certainly be a bad outcome.
Example:
Origin: Catch 22 was the title of the 1955 novel by Joseph Heller set on a USA AF WWII base. The aircrew are on the edge of breakdown; they must be mad to go on another mission, but the fact that they realise that they must be mad means that they must be sane at the same time. They have to continue flying. Truly a “no win situation”.

Why call it Catch 22? During WWII daylight missions flown by the USA AF over Germany, many of the aircraft were shot down. Others were damaged but managed to get back to England. A very few were so damaged that, although they could still fly, they couldn’t make it back to base. Such aircraft were allowed by U.S. military law to divert to neutral countries like Sweden and Switzerland. Once there, the crews were interned but they were out of the war. This near-death scenario of gross but not fatal damage was covered by USA AF general directive number 22. Hence, if you could fall into, or catch, the tiny area of severe but not disastrous damage, all would be well. However the likelihood was that you wouldn’t and you’d be either shot down and possibly killed, or back in the war.

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Catherine wheel
Meaning:
Example:
Origin: The Christian martyr St. Catherin of Alexandria is said to have confessed her faith to Roman Emperor Maximinus and rebuked him for the worship of false gods. After she converted his wife and the Roman general who escorted her to prison, Maximinus ordered her broken on the wheel, but the spiked wheel was shattered to pieces by her touch. This virgin of royal descent was then put to death by the axe, and tradition has it that her body was carried by angels to Mount Sinai where Justinian I built a famous monastery in her honour. St. Catherine is known as the patron saint of wheelwrights and mechanics, and her name day is November 25. The Catherine wheel, fireworks in the shape of a wheel rotated by the explosions; the circular, spoked Catherine wheel window; and Catherine wheels, lateral somersaults, all derive from her name.

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(Now the) Cat’s out of the bag
Meaning: To disclose a secret.
Example: She doesn’t know about her surprise retirement party - don’t let the cat out of the bag!
Origin: There are two suggested origins for this phrase.
A. The fraud of substituting a cat for a piglet at markets (as early as 1530). If you let the cat out of the bag, you disclosed the trick - and avoided buying a pig in a poke (bag).

B. An old sailor’s expression where the “Cat-o’-nine-tails” is taken out of its velvet bag - intended for use on an ill-disciplined sailor who was to be tied to the mast and flogged.
This second meaning is suspicious since it doesn’t match the 'disclose a secret' meaning of the phrase. Thanks to Russell Nilson.

The first known printed use of the phrase is in a 1760 edition of The London Magazine: “We could have wished that the author... had not let the cat out of the bag.”

Related phrase: “Let the cat out of the bag”.

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Caught eavesdropping
 
Meaning: A person found to be deliberately trying to overhear a conversation not intended for their ears.
Example:
Origin: The phrase goes back centuries to the time when most houses had no gutters - the rain dripped off the roofs but the roofs themselves projected well beyond the walls. This area inside where the water dripped was known originally as the Eavesdrip, and later as the Eavesdrop. People sheltering here were somewhat protected from the rain, but could also overhear what was going on in the house.

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Caught red-handed
 
Meaning: Caught in the act.
Example: Svend Robinson was almost caught red-handed with a piece of jewelry in his pocket.
Origin: For hundred of years, stealing and butchering another person’s livestock was a common crime. But it was hard to prove unless the thief was caught with a dead animal... and blood on his hands.

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Caught with his pants down
 
Meaning: Finding oneself in an awkward, unexpected, and uncompromising situation.
Example: Never one to be caught with his pants down, he made an impeccable recovery and gave a respectful welcome on our behalf, making the best of an awkward situation using his characteristic dry humour and wit.
Origin: This expression can be traced to the England in the 1920s, where it was caught with one’s trousers down. The phrase is likelier much older and kept out of print for prudish reasons until the 1920s.

(1) It refers to a man caught with a lady in media res by her husband.

(2) The situation arose when a hostile Indian came upon a frontiersman answering the call of nature in the woods without his rifle at his side.

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Chaise lounge
 
Meaning: Lounge chair.
Example: Rita felt very comfortable in the store’s new chaise lounge, imported from Paris.
Origin: The French called it a chaise longue, or “long chair,” but Americans, on importing it from France, assumed that the longue in the expression was French for “lounge.” Chaise lounge has remained ever since, despite all the efforts of purists.

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Champ at the bit
 
Meaning: To show impatience at being held back or delayed.
Example: The dismissal bell hadn’t rung, but they were champing at the bit to leave the classroom.
Origin: This mid-1600s expression refers to the action of a horse that impatiently bites the bit in its mouth.

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Chapter and verse
 
Meaning: The precise authority backing up a statement or view; established rules for, or detailed information about something.
Example: You can’t withdraw your bet after you’ve placed it - I’ll cite you the rules, chapter and verse.
Origin: This 1600s expression alludes to the chapter and verse of a quotation from the Bible, long regarded as an ultimate authority.

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Charity begins at home
 
Meaning: Be generous to your family before helping others.
Example: He spends hours on volunteer work and neglects his own children, forgetting that charity begins at home.
Origin: This phrase (c. 1380) was first recorded in English in John Wycliffe’s 'Of Prelates': “Charity should begin at himself.”

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Charm the pants off
 
Meaning: Very charming.
Example: He showed on time up for dinner and charmed the pants off her parents.
Origin: This one is self explanatory. Being very charming is an effective way to seduce women. The interesting thing is that this phrase is often used in the most innocent contexts.

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Charmed life
 
Meaning: An existence that appears to be protected by extreme good luck.
Example: Shane came out of the motorcycle accident without a scratch - he must lead a charmed life.
Origin: Shakespeare used this phrase in Macbeth (5:8): “Let fall thy blade on vulnerable crests, I bear a charmed life, which must not yield to one of woman born.” In later years, the term was extended to anyone who narrowly escaped from danger or was similarly lucky.

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Cheap at half the price
 
Meaning: Something that is very cheap.
Example:
Origin: The phrase is not related to price, but rather to quality. Thus something that is of very poor quality could still be thought of as “cheap”, even if it were “half the price”. The saying first came into usage in the mid 19th century, when impecunious members of the aristocracy were forced to borrow money from high interest charging money lenders, the lenders themselves being regarded as “cheap” individuals for so demeaning themselves by lending money at such high rates of interest that they would still be regarded as “cheap” even if they charged half the rate.

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Chew the fat
 
Meaning: Chat; engage in idle conversation.
Example: Sit down, have a brewskie, and let’s chew the fat.
Origin: The Inuit used to chew on pieces of whale blubber almost like chewing gum. The blubber took quite a while to dissolve, so it just sort of helped pass the time while they were doing something else.

Alternative: Sailors had to chew on salt pork when supplies were low, complaining about the poor food as they did. To “chew the rag” is based on chewing pieces of rag when the chewing tobacco had run out.

Alternative: This phrase refers to the processing and softening of hides by native Americans. This was the job of old women. Toothless old women would literally “chew the fat” off the inside of animal skins to make the hides soft and pliable. And, as the old women worked the hides, old did what old women will do - TALK, and “chew the fat”. Thanks to Sterling McCosh, Ephraim, Utah.

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Chink in the armor
 
Meaning: To have flaw or problem preventing success.
Example: This plan about retiring early has just one chink in the armor - we have no money.
Origin: “Chink” is an obscure word meaning a slit, fissure, or weak spot that can leave one vulnerable. Hence “Chink in the armor” means a weak spot in ones protection or plan.

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Chip on his shoulder
 
Meaning: Someone who is sulky, aggressive and moody
Example: Henrietta had a chip on her shoulder for being turned down for another promotion.
Origin: The phrase is based on an American schoolboy custom, about 200 years old. When two boys were arguing and itching for a fight then one would place an actual chip of wood on his shoulder and challenge the other to knock it off. If the challenge was taken up, then the proper fight started.

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Chock full
 
Meaning: To be very full.
Example: I like my cereal chock full of fruit.
Origin: “Chock” has several definitions. One is “as close or as completely as possible”. “Chock Full” means literally to be as close as possible to being full.

Chock-a-block indicates that something or somewhere is grossly over full. Of naval origin, the phrase was used when two blocks of tackle were stuck so hard together that they couldn’t be tightened further. The modern colloquial “this room is chockers”.

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Choke someone off
 
Meaning: To discourage someone or to dampen their enthusiasm for a proposal.
Example:
Origin: The original discouragement was to a fighting dog. It was gripped by the throat and choked in order to make it release its hold on its adversary.

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Christmas tree
 
Meaning: An ancient custom of putting up a Christmas Tree to celebrate the Christmas season.
Example: Family and friends gather around the Christmas tree to celebrate the festive holiday season and watch their children gleafully open their presents.
Origin: German settlers brought the custom to America, where English-speaking setttlers called it the Christmas tree. First recorded in 1838, Germans call the small decorated firs or spruces they use a Weihnachtsbaum, or “holy-night tree.” Americans at first thought the trees idolatrous, but soon realized the German immigrants weren’t worshipping the tree and adopted the custom themselves.

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Clapped out
 
Meaning: Someone who is exhausted.
Example:
Origin: When pursued by hounds or other adversaries, hares will stop from time to time to catch their breath. They routinely sit up on their haunches and look around; their respiratory movements are so strong that their chests heave in and out and their front legs move in time with the breathing. To the observer they appear to be clapping and, in the world of hare hunting, this is exactly what it’s called.

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Clean as a whistle
 
Meaning: Exceptionally clean or smooth.
Example:
Origin: This phrase appeared at the beginning of the 19th Century, describing the whistling noise made as a sword tears through the air to decapitate a victim cleanly, in a single stroke.

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Clean bill of health
 
Meaning: To be healthy.
Example: I visited the doctor today and was given a clean bill of health.
Origin: This widely used term has its origins in the “Bill of Health”, a document issued to a ship showing that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic or infection at the time of departure.

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Cleaner than a frog’s armpit
 
Meaning: Being poor, broke (nothing to do with cleanliness).
Example:
Origin: Spanish origin.

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Clear as a bell
 
Meaning: Clearly understood.
Example: You don’t have to repeat yourself. Your message is clear as a bell.
Origin: Bells such as the type used in churches are large and loud. Their sound can be heard from a great distance. Bells sound a single, clear note so their sound is distinctive and not easily confused.

Before electric sirens and amplification systems, bells were a valuable means of signaling people and alerting of important events - like an impending attack. The bell and the message intended could be heard clearly over a large area.

Back in the 1910’s, many companies were trying to get into the manufacturing and selling one the hottest items around - the phonograph. One of those companies was the Sonora Chime Company. This company started the Sonora Phonograph Company and used “Clear as a Bell” as their slogan, touting the fidelity of their machine’s sound reproduction.

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Clear the decks
 
Meaning: Prepare for action; take care of minor matters so you can focus on important ones.
Example: Warren wanted a spotless sailboat and took great pains to clear the decks as often as possible.
Origin: A sailing ship’s crew prepared for battle by removing or fastening down all loose objects on deck that might otherwise get in the way of the guns, or be knocked down and injure a sailor.

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Climb on the bandwagon
 
Meaning: To join in something that looks as if it will be a success, often with a view to gaining some sort of personal benefit.
Example: When the Vancouver Canucks are winning, I will jump on the bandwagon and be a fan.
Origin: This goes back to the southern USA custom of bands playing on a wagon in front of a religious or political rally. Supporters would jump on board in order to show their enthusiasm. Although the practice is of some age, the saying itself is first recorded about the Presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan early in the 20th century. Climbing (or jumping) on the bandwagon was akin to providing your support for this popular candidate.

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Close but no cigar
 
Meaning: Nearly achieving success, but not quite.
Example: That free throw was close but no cigar.
Origin: Carnival games of skill, particularly shooting games, once gave out cigars as a prize. A contestant that did not quite hit the target was close, but did not get a cigar.

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Cock-a-hoop
 
Meaning: To be full of jubilation and delight.
Example:
Origin: One could imagine a cock crowing proudly and the analogy with a crowing cock.

Alternative: During medieval drinking bouts the spigot or cock was often removed from the barrel and placed on the hoop at the top. The beer flowed freely and the drinkers were full of merriment and delight. The 1811 dictionary, however, spells it Cock-a-whoop, thereby raising an altogether different possibility.

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Cock and Bull story
 
Meaning: A fabricated or highly exaggerated story intended to deceive.
Example: I don’t want to hear another Cock and Bull story about why you are late, just be here on time from now on.
Origin: This is a corruption of a “concocted and bully story”. Bully is the Danish bullen, or exaggerated. Therefore, it stands to reason that a cock and bull story is a made up, exaggerated story.

Alternative: The ancient north Buckinghamshire town of Stony Stratford, now part of the new city of Milton Keynes, is famous as the place of origin of the term 'Cock & Bull Story', recognised throughout the English-speaking world. This dates back to the late 18th/early 19th centuries, at the height of the great coaching era, when Stony Stratford (which is located on the old Roman Road of Watling Street, latterly the A5) was an important stopping-off point for mail and passenger coaches travelling between London and the North. Travellers on these coaches were regarded as a great source of current news from remote parts of the country - news which would be imparted in the town’s two main inns, The Cock and The Bull. The two establishments rapidly developed a rivalry as to which could furnish the most outlandish and scurrilous travellers’ tales. Hence Cock & Bull Story.Thanks to Dave Evans, Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, China.

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Cock up
 
Meaning: A bungle or mess up (but not a disaster) in a project.
Example:
Origin: “Cock up” is an innocent expression meaning “error” used by printers and others, including poachers. This latter group could well be the true origin since it is claimed that, if you startle a pheasant that you’re stalking, then it will squawk and the noise sounds like “cock up”.

Alternative: “Cocking” a flintlock pistol. If not cocked up there was likely to be a disaster when the trigger was pulled.

Alternative: The arrows of traditional English long bows had three feathers. One of these, named the “cock” feather, had to be positioned away from the line of the bow string, otherwise it would hit the string and affect the flight of the arrow to produce a “cock up”.

Alternative: When a fermented barrel of wine is ready to be run-off for bottling, a stop-cock is driven into the barrel and a sample is tasted to check for quality. If the wine has turned sour, the cock is twisted upside down showing that the barrel is not to be used.

Alternative: In the ranks of soldiers practicing manoeuvres with their flint-lock (or percussion-cap) rifles, it was not unusual to hear a rifle discharge when it shouldn’t have done. Some rifles lacked the trigger guard that is now mandatory, and trigger mechanisms in general were not to be trusted. Subsequently, when the rifles where slammed and jerked from position to position, any recruit who had eagerly cocked their rifle in error, would be likely to inadvertently fire the rifle. The remark would be “well, that was a cock up”... the mistake becoming known as a 'cock-up', and giving name to many other accidental happenings.

Alternative: “Cock-up” is a well-known nautical expression. The Cock is the upper foremost corner of a gaff sail rigged sail. The Head is the upper edge and the peak the upper after corner. When fully raised the peak is higher than the cock. When raising the gaff, 2 gangs will operate the halyards both on the cock end and peak end of the gaff. It is most important that they raise the gaff horizontal, otherwise this large piece of timber will slew sideways into the mast (it has a metal ring round the mast to stop it coming away completely) and jams fast and then becomes impossible to either raise or lower. This is most acute if the cock is above the peak hence a 'cock-up'. It is quite easily done if the 2 gangs are not paying attention to each other.

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Cockles of your heart
 
Meaning: A feeling of pleasure and affection.
Example:
Origin: Cockles come from the belief that 17th century anatomists likened the shape of the ventricles of the heart to that of the marine mollusc of the same name and, of course, the heart has always been regarded as the seat of love and affection.

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Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey
 
Meaning: Very cold.
Example: I am not going outside. It is cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey and mine are considerable more sensitive.
Origin: In the 1700s cannon balls and black powder were carried by boys referred to as “powder monkeys”.

One explanation has it that the balls were stacked in the familiar pyramid configuration with a wooden triangle holding the bottom layer together. These wooden triangles (perhaps as an extension of powder monkey) were also referred to as “monkeys”. The trouble with wooden monkeys was that they couldn’t take much abuse before shattering under the impact of dropped cannon balls.

The next material used to make monkeys was brass. These worked perfectly in warmer weather. The trouble with brass monkeys was that they tended to shrink a little when the weather turned cold enough. This shrinkage squeezed the bottom layer up, sending balls rolling all over the deck.

Interesting tale, but not likely. The boys were definitely called powder monkeys, and the triangles may indeed have been called monkeys. But the idea that cold weather would cause enough shrinkage to squeeze out the cannon balls is fanciful. Brass is an alloy made of copper and nickel and is quite stable. 

Considering the size of even a small cannon ball is perhaps 2 to 3 inches in diameter, the amount of shrinkage of the monkey would have to be a couple of inches to push out the balls. Impossible.

Alternative: On war ships, it was necessary to keep a good supply of canon balls near the cannon. But how to prevent them from rolling about the deck was the problem The best storage method devised was to stack them as a square based pyramid, with one ball on top, resting on four, resting on nine, which rested on sixteen. Thus, a supply of 30 cannon balls could be stacked in a small area right next to the cannon. There was only one problem -- how to prevent the bottom layer from sliding/rolling from under the others. The solution was a metal plate with 16 round indentations, called a Monkey. But if this plate was made of iron, the iron balls would quickly rust to it. The solution to the rusting problem was to make brass Monkeys. Few landlubbers realize that brass contracts much more and much faster than iron when chilled. Consequently, when the temperature dropped too far, the brass indentations would shrink so much that the iron cannon balls would come right off the monkey. Thus, it was quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

See also  Temperature Gauge

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Cold turkey
 
Meaning: To quit something abruptly.
Example: You will not lose weight until you give up chocolate - I suggest you go cold turkey.
Origin: The expression originates from the goose bumps and palor which accompany withdrawal from narcotics or tobacco. One’s skin resembles that of a plucked, cold turkey.

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Come a cropper
 
Meaning: There has been a tumble, either actual or metaphorical.
Example:
Origin: Based on horse riding where to fall neck and crop means that the horse has hit the ground with both its neck and its crop (i.e. a potentially serious accident).

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Con artist
 
Meaning: A person skilled at cheating or swindling others.
Example: Many people view car salesmen, lawyers, and con artist as one and the same.
Origin: “Con” is short for confidence. A con artist gains the trust and confidence of the victim. After gaining the trust, the con artist cheats the victim, betraying the trust.

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Cook one’s goose
 
Meaning: To put someone at a disadvantage; to thwart their efforts to achieve a goal.
Example:
Origin: The phrase is recorded in an 1851 London street ballard, but its origin is obscure. Suggestions range from Eric, King of Sweden, coming to a certain town with very few soldiers. The enemy, in mockery, hung out a goose for him to shoot at. Finding, however, that the king meant business, and that it would be no laughing matter for them, they sent heralds to ask him what he wanted. “To cook your goose for you,” he facetiously replied.

Alternative: In 1560, a town attacked by the Mad King of Sweden (Eric XIV), hung up a goose - a symbol of stupidity - in protest. The furious king threatened, “I’ll cook your goose!”

Alternative: The origin might come from the 'The Goose that laid the Golden Egg' where the greed of the peasants caused the goose to be killed. In truth, no one knows for sure.

Alternative: Long before chickens were commonly kept, geese were the principle source of eggs. Of course, with meat being a prized and limited commodity, eggs were the principle source of protein in someone’s diet. However, were someone to kill and eat your goose, there went your source of protein.   Thanks to Shelia Clark.

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Cook the books
 
Meaning: To falsify an account of an event, often a financial one.
Example: The Canadian Liberal government has a lot of expertise in cooking the books.
Origin: This phrase originated in the mid 17th century and relates to the act of cooking, where ingredients are changed, altered and improved by the process. Financial statements can also be so modified to the benefit of the 'cook'.

Alternative: Such a change, in a negative way, is also seen in the expression to 'cook someone’s goose', thereby depriving the owner of the benefit of the animal, either alive or dead.

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Cooking with gas
 
Meaning: To be working fast, proceeding rapidly.
Example: After working with those old hand tools, power tools will make you feel like you are really cooking with gas.
Origin: Although common place today, gas stoves have not always been the norm. Gas stoves started to be available in the 1800’s, and until that time wood stoves were the standard.

You’re “cooking with gas” comes from an old advertisement for gas stoves. The phrase suggests that gas is faster, easier, cleaner, better than cooking with wood.

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Cool as a cucumber
 
Meaning: Very cool, relaxed and in control.
Example: The trick to handling a job interview is to walk in cool as a cucumber and pretend you know what you are talking about.
Origin: “Cool as a cumber” is an alliteration.

Alternative: A cut cucumber actually can feel cool to the touch. Because they are very moist, evaporation of the moisture provides a cooling effect. Even on a warm day, a field cucumber stays about 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. Though scientists didn’t prove this until 1970, the saying has been around since the 18th Century.

The bizarre image of woman receiving facial treatments with slices of cucumber on each eye is brought to mind. It is precisely for this cooling effect that this is done.

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Copper bottomed guarantee
 
Meaning: A guarantee that is “Cast Iron” in quality.
Example: The Liberal government issued an election copper bottomed guarantee to clean up corruption, except for Svend Robinson.
Origin: Wooden ships are particularly prone to damage from underwater rocks and other obstacles; they are also particularly prone to encrustation from barnacles and other sea creatures. In order to significantly reduce the chance of damage, and encrustation, really well built expensive ships were given a copper bottom. This almost guaranteed that they would suffer only minimal damage or encrusting. The smooth bottom meant that they were faster than their rivals and could be guaranteed to arrive earlier.

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Cotton on to someone
 
Meaning: To adhere to someone, perhaps when not wanted; or to eventually understand an idea or intention.
Example:
Origin: Cotton thread seems to stick to almost anything and can be difficult to dislodge. The saying is recorded in a play as early as 1605.

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Counting Dukes
Meaning: A way to choose a person for a game.
Example:
Origin: Children place their fist outward to be counted by way of touching each fist in succession to a rhyme. The last fist touched is the one chosen to lead the game, or rather “it.” The term “dukes” comes from the slang for fist, as in “put up your dukes.”
Thanks to John Stout.

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Cracker Jack
 
Meaning: To be very good at something.
Example: Don’t worry about your DUI. We will hire a cracker jack attorney and get you off.
Origin: “Crack” means of superior excellence of ability as in "he’s a crack shot" meaning excellent, superb. “Jack” being like “Joe”, a common man. “Cracker jack” thus means a Superb man, any man.

Curiously “cracker” is defined as a bragging liar, which is very much in contrast to “cracker jack” which implies someone who delivers.

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Credit where credit is due
 
Meaning: Credit issued towards a purchase - whatever and whenever.
Example: Visa would gladly issue credit where credit is due for anyone foolish enough to pay their exorbitant & ludicrously high interest rates.
Origin: The expression “credit card” was coined in 1888 by futurist author Edward Bellamy, who wrote a fictional account of a young man who wakes up in the year 2000 and discovers that cash has been replaced in favour of “a credit corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation, and a credit card is issued to him with which he procures at the public storehouses whatever he desires, whenever he desires it.” Sixty years later his vision, in slightly altered form, came true.

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Criss cross
 
Meaning: Something is repeatedly crossed.
Example: The field is criss-crossed by cart tracks.
Origin: Originally it related to a Chriss-cross or Christ-cross and referred to the alphabet in a Hornbook, which had a cross like a Maltese cross at the beginning and end. The emphasis today is more in the sense of crossing a barrier or hurdle in an undisciplined way, not the neat and orderly manner of a Hornbook.

A Hornbook was a thin board about 9"x 5" with a handle. It served as a backing for a sheet of vellum or paper on which was written or printed the alphabet, the Lord’s prayer, an exorcism or Roman numerals. The whole was covered by a piece of transparent horn. The handle had a hole so that it could be tied to a schoolchild’s belt. Such books were still in use in England in the 18th century.

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Crocodile tears
 
Meaning: Pretending to cry in an attempt to manipulate or exploit, phony tears; fake tears; false grief.
Example: OJ gave his testimony through crocodile tears.
Origin: In ancient Rome (about AD 300), people used this expression. About 1,000 years later, people enjoyed listening to a popular folktale about how crocodiles make loud weeping sounds to trap innocent prey who come to see what all the wailing is about. The crocodile supposedly weeps fake tears even as they eat their victims.

Alternative: It was often thought that crocodiles shed tears that slid down into their mouths, moistening their food and making it easier for them to swallow. Hence the tears appear to be an expression of emotion but are in fact a means to make it easier to swallow.

Alternative: When at rest basking in the sun crocodiles have their mouths open, this position of the jaw puts pressure on the tear glands and causes them to shed tears. Hence crocodile tears are not real since they are a physical response, not an emotional one.

British writers such as Shakespeare, Bacon, and Tennyson used “crocodile tears” to suggest insincere sympathy and pretended sorrow.

Alternative: The thought was first seen in English when Sir John Maundevilles book Voyage and Travail appeared in 1400: There be great plenty of Cokadrilles - these serpents slay men, and then weeping, eat them. Thanks to Max Cryer.

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Curate’ s egg
 
Meaning: Anything that is a less than perfect but which has its good points.
Example:
Origin: This phrase comes from a famous “Punch” cartoon of the 19th century in which a young curate is seen having breakfast with his Bishop. The curate’s egg is clearly not fresh and, when asked by the Bishop, “How is your egg?”, is forced to politely reply, “Excellent, in parts”.

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Curry favour
 
Meaning: To seek to get into someone’s good books; to ingratiate oneself.
Example:
Origin: “Curry” refers to a horse riding term for grooming or rubbing down an animal. The “favour” is an alteration of the word Favel. Favel was the name of the half horse, half man Centaur in the early 14th century French satirical romance Le Roman de Fauvel. This beast was cunning and evil and it was just as well to keep on the right side of him. To curry him kept him in a good mood.

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Cut and run
 
Meaning: To rapidly depart a situation.
Example:
Origin: In the old days anchor “cables” were made of rope. If a ship was at anchor and suddenly came under attack the crew would not attempt to raise the anchor; rather they would cut the rope and allow the ship to run before the wind.

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Cut from the same cloth
 
Meaning: To be similar, usually in terms of behavior.
Example: You and your father are cut from the same cloth - bike guys love to stick together.
Origin: If you’re making a suit, the jacket and trousers should be cut from the same piece of cloth to ensure a perfect match, since there may be differences in color, weave etc. between batches of fabric. Only if the whole suite is cut from the same piece of cloth can we be sure of the match.

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Cut no ice
 
Meaning: To have no influence.
Example:
Origin: Cutting here is done by ice skates and, if not sharp, will not allow the wearer to slide easily over the ice. Blunt blades make no impression - they cut no ice.

______________________________________________________________________________

Cut out for you
 
Meaning: There’s a large amount of work to be done.
Example: The farmer had his work cut out for him to get the wheat harvested before the rain came.
Origin: This phrase is from dressmaking or carpentry, where pattern parts are literally cut out so you see what needs to be assembled. Whatever the pieces are, the mission is clear, and the work to be done is evident; your work has been cut out for you - get on with it!

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Cut the mustard
 
Meaning: To meet expectations.
Example: Cadillac’s days as a high status car are over, compared to more modern cars it just doesn’t cut the mustard.
Origin: Mustard in this case is actually a mispronunciation of the word muster. To pass muster is to pass an inspection as in a military inspection.

Alternative: The mustard seed is extremely small, and is the active ingredient in the condiment of the same name. Hence cutting the mustard (seed) is hard to do.

______________________________________________________________________________

Cut to the chase
 
Meaning: Get to the point.
Example: This story is dragging on. Cut to the chase and tell me about the relevant issues.
Origin: “Chase” refers to the obligatory scene that is the exciting climax of many action films. Someone watching an action movie with a slow build up, might be wishing the movie would literally “cut to the chase”.

In fact many marginal movies have been released because of a good chase scene. A movie executive screening a film that appears to less than tremendous might instruct the projectionist to advance the film to the chase scene such that a quick determination could be made regarding the movie’s prospects.

Similar to “Cut to the quick”.

______________________________________________________________________________

Cut to the quick
 
Meaning: (A) Get to the point; (B) Cause deep emotional hurt.
Example: I don’t want to hear the story from the beginning. Cut to the quick and give me the scoop.
Origin: A: “Quick” is actually defined as meaning flesh or skin.

That definition has survived in reference to the fingernail. The “quick” is the part of finger, beneath the nail, that relies on the nail for protection. If you cut your fingernail too short and (painfully) expose the tender flesh beneath, you have cut it to the quick.

In hand to hand duel or battle a combatant who wished to taunt his opponent, might intentionally cut through the clothes or armor “to the quick”. The act of cutting through clothes to the flesh is to cut through the insignificant to the substantial.

If someone cuts you with a knife but it’s a shallow wound and inconsequential, then you wouldn’t use this phrase. If they cut you deeply, or stabbed you, then you might say they’d cut you to the quick. Again this is cutting though the inconsequential to the meaningful.

This may also be related to the use of the word “quickening” to describe the hypothetical moment when a fetus becomes a baby. This term and idea were once very common in both Anglophile Europe and the Americas.

In either case, there is a clear meaning of penetrating the dead, dull stuff and getting to the live, important bits. This translates very nicely to the most common use of the phrase today, to mean skipping to the important part of a story or explanation.

Alternative: “Cut to the quick” has the same origin as “Quick and the Dead”. Here “quick” comes from the old English Cwicu meaning “living” and thus to “cut to the quick” implies a deep wound into living flesh.

Similar to “Cut to the chase”.



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Piano Movers a la Motor ...
Sundae Sermon
The Very First King Siz ...
Be Nice To America
Dunking Straw
Whale Photobomb
Frozen Fish
Hungry For Justice
Looking For Something?
Overpass Underpassed
Take The Bus
Water Relief
Bear Expectations
Polce Car
Office Cubicle Inspirat ...
Christmas Clothing
12 Days of Christmas - ...
Canadian Nativity Scene
Maybe My Job Is Not So ...
Generic Apology
Unless Your Dog Can Do ...
Reindeer Sleigh
Christmas Shopping List
Christmas Baby
Eiffel Tower Modificati ...
Double Horse
Restored Beauty
Redneck Hedge Trimming
Snowball Tree
Fishnet Stockings
Dog Distress
Redneck Coffee Table
Bear Protection
Office Party Grinch
Souped Up Car
Squeegee Clothing
Tongue Shoes
Christmas Plea For Help
Bee Prepared
Baby Biker
Negotiations Texas Styl ...
Stoned Sign
Family Exercise
Daniel's Lotion
Shark Circles
Christmas Dinner Made E ...
Shot Glass Chess
Granny Smith Apple
Sun Protection
Roman Slave Ship
Advertising Truths
Check This Out
Redneck Wine Rack
Joe's Office
Rudolf Hairstyle
Tech Help For Grandma
Give Her Crabs For Chri ...
Baby-Proof Christmas Tr ...
Paradise Reclaimed
Celebrity Swine Flu Fat ...
Sermon On Alcohol
Christmas Pizza for Kin ...
Duck That Did Not Duck
One Way Repairs
Portable Shower
Fractured Christmas Car ...
Outlet Wall
Safety Last Motorcyclis ...
Organ Donor
Young Piper
Dementia Relations
Santa Cat
Redneck Muffler Shop
Christmas Tree Wheel
Turnip-o'-lanterns
ElectriCandle
African Wheelbarrow
Getting a Hairdryer Thr ...
Titanic's Non-Romantic ...
Wiener Dog Safety
Lost Axle
Model T Ford Repair Cos ...
Water Skiing in Russia
Winter Cyclist
Baby Christmas Tree
Eiffel Slide
Wong Thong
After-Gas Piggy Bank
Every Man Should Get On ...
Fish Eye Lens
Stratus Sphere
When Not To Stop Too Fa ...
Snow Camo
Wine Aerobics
Jar of Birds
Grandma's Beautiful Pie ...
Long Time No See
Five Pound Note
Vase Security
It's Safe To Come Out N ...
UPS and DOWNS
Bad Timing for a Cymbal ...
Deconstruction
Talking Centipede
Redneck Flu Shot
Thumb Queen
Christmas Light Apology
Long Live The Queen
Politically Correct Sta ...
Sewing Sculpture
Border Patrol At Its Fi ...
Yoga Vacation
Mother Popeye
Merry Moosemas
Da Vinci Code Revealed
Swan Heels
Race Car Wedding Dress
Vancouver Snow Plow
Pool Rules For Breastst ...
Neighbour Trap
Lead Sled Dog
Whooooo Goes There?
Alaska Gas
Baseball Chair
Woman's Remote
Cloud Control
It's Not My Job
Gas Saving Motorcyclist
Need A Lifeguard?
Cat Chauffeur
Polar Bear Party
Surreal Cubist
Dog Walking - Remotely
Before Emoticons
Home Made Limo
Table Scraps in the Ope ...
Bear Praise
Fortune Cookies - In Be ...
Mt. Rushmore from the C ...
Urban Thug Anatomy