Phrases, Clichés, Expressions & Sayings
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Earmark something
Meaning: Marking something to indicate ownership.
Origin: This phrase comes from the ancient habit of marking cattle ears with a tab to indicate ownership. In Biblical times the custom extended to human property. In Exodus 21:6, a servant declined to go free after six years' service : "his master shall bore his ear through with an awl; and he shall serve him forever". In the 19th century the term came to be applied to money designated for a special purpose. Later it spread to the wider application used today.


Earn one's stripes
Meaning: Gain a position through hard work and accumulated experience.
Example: She earned her stripes by serving for 30 years as the World Vision coordinator.
Origin: This 1800s expression initially referred to a military promotion or award, indicated by strips of chevron or braid added to the recipient's uniform and known as stripes.


Easy as pie
Meaning: Simple to accomplish, easy to do.
Example: Spending money is as easy as pie, accumulating wealth is tough.
Origin: Easy as pie (or apple pie) originated in Australia around 1920. The Australian expression to be “pie at” or “pie on” something means to be very good at something (from the Maori word “pai” = good).

Alternative: Making of a pie from scratch isn’t easy. The phrase is a contraction of the late-19th Century phrase “easy as eating pie.”

If you are good at something it’s easy... as pie!.


Eat one's words
Meaning: To admit that what you said was wrong. To retreat in a humiliating way.
Example: Trudy said that Joe would never succeed with his humour website, but after seeing his site reach 6 million hits per month, she had to eat her words.
Origin: "God eateth not his word when he hath once spoken" is the first recorded use of this expression, in a 1571 religious work.

Earliest instance of people literally eating their words: In 1370 the Pope sent two delegates to Bernabo Visconti bearing a rolled parchment, informing him that he had been excommunicated. Infuriated, Visconti arrested the delegates and made them eat the parchment - words, lead seal and all.


Eat your heart out
Meaning: Intended to make one feel bitterness or pain as they long for something out of reach.
Example: Eat your heart out Jillian, I'm seeing Henrietta now. You had your chance.
Origin: Heart is also defined as the central, core, or inner most part of an object (or person). To eat the heart out is to remove the core or most important part, a part that will surely be missed. The phrase is probably a shortened way of saying "This will eat your heart out".

Alternative: Adapted from the 16th century "eat one's own heart", meaning to suffer from silent grief or vexation. It also has roots in the Biblical phrase, "to eat one’s own flesh", used to describe an indolent person.


Eating crow
Meaning: To be proven wrong.
Example: With the fall of the Soviet Union, the communists are eating crow.
Origin: An article published in the Atlanta Constitution in 1888 claims that, towards the end of the war of 1812, an American went hunting and by accident crossed behind the British lines, where he shot a crow.

He was caught by a British officer who, complimenting him on his fine shooting, persuaded him to hand over his gun. This officer then leveled his gun and said that as a punishment the American must take a bite of the crow. The American obeyed, but when the British officer returned his gun he took his revenge by making him eat the rest of the bird.

This is such an interesting explanation of the phrase's origin that it seems a shame to point out that the original expression is not recorded until the 1850s, and that its original form was to "eat boiled crow," whereas the story makes no mention of boiling the bird.

It also seems improbable that the English officer would have returned the gun after forcing the American to take a bite of the bird under gunpoint.

In reality, "crow" is a word that refers to the intestines of an animal especially when used for food. The British English equivalent is "eating humble (or umble) pie."


Eating humble pie
Meaning: To be proven wrong, usually after boasting.
Example: With the fall of the Soviet Union, the communists are eating humble pie.
Origin: Humble pie is a derivation of umble pie and refers to the intestines of an animal especially when used for food. The original umbles were the innards of the deer: the liver, heart, entrails and other second-class bits. It was common practice in medieval times to serve a pie made of these parts of the animal to the servants and others that would be sitting at the lower tables in the lord's hall.

To eat humble pie is to accept your position at the lower table.


Egg on your face
Meaning: To be embarrassed.
Example: Make sure you have your story straight - go public without the facts and you will have egg on your face.
Origin: From the embarrassment suffered if the yellow yoke is on ones lips or beard after eating a soft boiled egg in one of those egg cups, a favorite breakfast of the upper crust. Yellow egg shows up especially well on a beard or mustache.

Alternative: During slapstick comedies in the Victorian theater, actors made the fall guy look foolish by breaking eggs on his forehead.


Eleventh hour
Meaning: The latest possible time.
Example: The student handed in his take-home exam at the eleventh hour.
Origin: This early 1800s phrase alludes to the parable of the labourers (Matthew 20:1-16), in which those workers hired at the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour working day were paid the same amount as those who began in the first hour.


Even steven
Meaning: An equitable distribution.
Example: She thinks he doesn't do his share of the housework, while he says things are even steven.
Origin: "Even steven" is merely modern rhyming slang (like "drop dead, fred", "see ya later alligator", or "know what I mean, jelly bean?").

Rhyming slang is common in many languages and dialects, and is particularly common in cockney English. Cockney rhyming slang takes the idea a bit farther actually substituting a rhyming word or phrase for common terms (e.g. "apple fritter" means "bitter (a type of beer)", "Johnie Horner" means "corner", "Rub-a-dub" means "Pub" and so on).


Every Tom, Dick, and Harry
Meaning: Everyone, all ordinary individuals.
Example: The company's newest model should appeal to every Tom, Dick, and Harry.
Origin: The use of masculine names in this phrase dates from Shakespeare's time (he used Tom, Dick, and Francis in I Henry IV), but the current usage dates from the early 1800s.

Variants: "Every mother's son" (1583) & "Every man Jack" 1800s). These 2 variants are British and occasionally used in America.


Everything but the kitchen sink
Meaning: Practically everything there is; every possible object whether needed or not.
Origin: This expression was born in the early 20th century and became popular after World War II (the late 1940s). The kitchen sink is heavy, connected to pipes and usually bolted down, so it’s not easily movable. But if you took everything but the kitchen sink, you’d be taking virtually all there was.

Related sayings are "From soup to nuts" and "From A to Z".


Everything's Jake
Meaning: All is satisfactory.
Example: Don't worry mate - everything's jake.
Origin: The term has probably been used as much in North America as in Australia and
authorities are divided as to where it originated. In any case, jake now seems
to lack a distinctively Australian flavour. Perhaps most significantly,
the term appears to have largely gone out of use everywhere.  Thanks to ozlip.

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