Sunday, October 15, 2006


The origin is unknow but one theory holds that General James Wolfe (the battle hero of Quebec) used the word in a letter as a pejorative term for Americans. Another theory is that it comes from the Dutch 'janke' which is a diminutive of the name Jan.

This is from a website visitor:
I've read that he North American natives allied with the French during French & Indian Wars incorrectly pronounced the French word 'Anglais' as 'Yankeez'. Thus, the word 'Yankee' is a corruption of the French word for English."

Tags: , , , ,


Sabotage: "
First used in the early 1900's to describe French railway workers that were on strike and used to cut the sabot that held railroad tracks in place.

I was always taught at school (in England) that this was named after the clogs, or sabots, that the French rural peasants used to wear. Unhappy at the loss of their jobs during the mechanisation of agriculture in the 19th century, they would throw their sabots in the thresing machines causing them to fail. This method of damaging equipment came to be known as sabotage."

Tags: , , , ,

Make no bones about it

Make no bones about
The bones referred to (originally made from bone) are dice. And mean to state a fact in a way that allows no doubt.

When you 'make no bones about' it you are stating all the facts and leaving no doubt. It is believed that this idiom comes from dice which were originally made of bone."

Tags: , , , ,

Hold your horses

Hold your horses
A U.S. origin which dates back to the 19th century which means to be patient and to wait.

This pre dates even your brief history as well as most of Europe... even the Romans used to have a man to 'Hold your Horses' whilst a noisy battle was ensuing! It’s probably Chinese in origin as they invented gunpowder."

Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


This is the area where relief pitchers throw their warmup pitches before entering the game. Nobody knows the exact origin, but one theory is that there used to be ads for 'Bull' Durham Tobacco on the outfield walls next to where the pitchers would warmup.

A second theory comes from the fact that when fans arrived late, they were herded like bulls into a roped off section which came to be known as the bullpen. This was the same area where pitchers warmed up.

A third theory is that pitchers who were taken out of the game had been 'slaughtered' like a bull; and the new pitcher would suffer the same fate.

Tags: , , , ,

Back to Square One

Back to square one
Meaning back to the beginning this idiom was first heard on football radio commentaries during games.Football isn't easy to commentate on on the radio so they had the idea of splitting up the field into notional numbered squares so that listeners could be told where the ball was. Whenever the game restarted after a break it was 'back to square one'."

Tags: , , , ,


The word 'blackmail' became popular in the 1800's and comes from the clan chieftains who ran protection rackets on farmers in Scottland. If the farmers didn't pay the mail (an old term for rent), the chieftains would steal their cattle and crops. Since this was considered evil, it was considered 'black'.
Tags: , , , ,

Monday, October 02, 2006

Barking up the wrong tree

Meaning: Following a dead end path, pursuing an incorrect lead or assumption.
Example: If you think those gloves will convict OJ, you are barking up the wrong tree.
Origin: When using dogs in a foxhunt, the dogs sometimes corner the fox in a tree. The dogs will proceed to bark up at the fox. Barking up the wrong tree, where there is no fox, is a pointless exercise.

Straight from the horse's mouth

Meaning: Directly from the source.
Example: If you want the real story you have to get it straight from the horses mouth.
Origin: This is a boast of confidence from a racetrack tipster, who says he gets his information from the horses themselves—thereby assuring the bettor that the info is the correct.

Thanks to Jim Hubbell


A horse trader would bend the ear of a prospective buyer with all kinds of talk about the animal, but for a clear measure of its worth, one can simply look in the animal's mouth. You can tell a great deal about a horse from its mouth. Age, nutrition, general health of the horse, and if it had been over reined.

If a horse is unruly you have to rein it in a lot, and this shows in the horse's mouth.

Pass the buck

Meaning: Pass off responsibility to someone else.
Example: In times of trouble, my old boss was quick to pass the buck. But when things went well, her mantra became "the buck stops here".
Origin: Some card games use a marker called a buck. Players take turns acting as dealer with the buck marking the current dealer. When the buck is passed to the next player, the responsibility for dealing is passed.

Spawned the phrase "The buck stops here" popularized by President Harry Truman.

A buck-slip is also a small piece of paper that is sometimes preprinted, or hand-written, and included the names of the people who were to receive a memo or report. It is a routing list.

In the days before copy machines and computers people typed one memo, with a carbon copy, then passed the one copy of the memo around to the people listed on the buck slip. Each person initialed next to their name on the buck slip and passed the memo on to the next person on the buck slip.

A tactic used to delay or delegate something was to pass the document on to the next person, without initialing the buck slip -- pass the buck (slip). When Harry said the buck stopped here he meant he wasn't going to pass the responsibility along.

Although the buck slip was a popular use of the term, that usage may have originated with the gambling usage.

Pushing the envelope

Meaning: To approach or exceed known performance boundaries.
Example: Your performance at work is not exactly pushing the envelope.
Origin: This expression comes out of the US Air Force test pilot program of the late 1940's.

The envelope refers to a plane's performance capabilities. The limits of the planes ability to fly at speeds and altitudes and under certain stresses define what is known as its performance envelope. It's an "envelope" in the sense that it contains the ranges of the plane's abilities.

"Pushing the envelope" originally meant flying an aircraft at, or even beyond, its known or recommended limits.

Thanks to Kensmark

A safe bet is that many who pushed the envelope crashed.

The expression was popularized by Tom Wolfe in his book "The right stuff" (1979) and later the movie of the same name.