Phrases, Clichés, Expressions & Sayings
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Under my wing
Meaning: To accept an apprentice.
Example: I have watched you flounder about for long enough. I will take you under my wing, teach you the trade, and make you the best honey dipper in the business.
Origin: Comes directly from observed animal behavior - birds obviously. Mother birds sometimes shelter chicks under their wings.

This protecting and nurturing act of birds reasonably mirrors the mentor-protege relationship.


Under the gun
Meaning: A need to perform under a tight deadline.
Example: I'm under the gun to complete this report - it's due first thing in the morning.
Origin: "Under the gun" means laboring under a threat of a gun pointed at you. Either you finish fast, or you get shot.


Under the weather
Meaning: To be ill.
Example: I'd love to help you move all your furniture next weekend, but I expect to be feeling a bit under the weather.
Origin: Passengers aboard ships become seasick most frequently during times of rough seas and bad weather. Seasickness is caused by the constant rocking motion of the ship. Sick passengers go below deck, which provides shelter from the weather, but just as importantly the sway is not as great below deck, low on the ship.

On a ship the greatest swaying action is on deck, and the most stable point is down near the keel. Hence seasick passengers tend to feel better below deck.

Some illnesses like rheumatism and arthritis act during time of poor weather. Sufferers from those ailments are literally under the influence of the weather.


Up the creek without a paddle
Meaning: You're in deep trouble and unable to do anything about it.
Example: His first parachute wouldn't open, then the emergency one failed - you might say he was up the creek without a paddle.
Origin: The phrase is a gentrified version of a WWII saying “Up shit's creek without a paddle” which summons up a mental picture more graphic than the current refined one... Imagine being in a rowboat at the top of Niagara Falls and you lose an oar!

Alternative: The expression goes back about 100 years and was probably first “up Salt Creek”, if we are to judge by the popular 1884 political campaign song “Blaine up Salt Creek.” A salt creek is a creek leading throught the salt marsh or mashland to the ocean - it's very easy to get stuck in one and, without a paddle, a boatman would have no way to get out. The excremental version coneys the same idea, but makes the situation even worse. Thanks to “Word And Phrase Origins”, Robert Hendrickson.

Alternative: This phrase came from Haslar Creek in Portsmouth harbour. Wounded sailors during Nelson's time, were taken there to die. They were held prisoner so that they would not desert if they recovered, and some escaped by going through the sewers to the creek.


Upper crust
Meaning: The better part of something.
Example: Prince Charles considers himself as part of the upper crust.
Origin: In the 1500s, bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle section, and guests got the top, or "upper crust."

Further Reference: The 1500s


Upper hand
Meaning: Control of a situation.
Example: If you are wondering who has the upper hand in your relationship, the next time you get up to fetch drinks, take a look on the sofa. There you will find that person.
Origin: This phrase originated with the advent of sandlot baseball. In order to determine which team would bat first, one player would grasp the baseball bat at the lower end. A player from the opposing team would then place his hand directly above the first player's hand. They would alternate hands up the bat until the end was reached and one of the players had the "upper hand".


Upset the apple cart
Meaning: Appears obvious,as in youths upsetting a cart; original intent: to throw a man down.
Origin: In the early to late 1800s "apple cart" was wrestlers' slang for the body and "down with his apple cart" was to throw a man down.

Alternative: The Romans had a similar expression "Perii, plaustrum perculi" - "I am undone, I have upset my cart."

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