42 Idiom Origins by Mental Floss

I really enjoyed this video courtesy of Mental Floss, and which I first saw via Tastefully Offensive, a humour site I have on my Reader feed. When you think about it, idioms are pretty interesting.

As fascinating as the origins listed in the video are, I don’t think I’m going to remember any of them. Frankly I’m more interested in the meaning, and not so much the origins. Most of them do sound fun to know, even the morbid ones, which prompts the presenter John Green to quip at one point, “Boy am I glad I don’t live in the past“, but fascinating in a passing interest kind of way.

Still, it’s a very interesting video, and a useful learning tool. Some of the idioms are familiar and common enough to me, like ‘cup of tea‘, ‘once in a blue moon‘ and ‘bury the hatchet‘.

Some I’ve heard of before but had not really grasped the meaning fully, like ‘ride shotgun‘, ‘always a bridesmaid…‘, and ‘fly off the handle‘.

Some are completely new to me, like ‘close, but no cigar‘, and ‘Halcyon days‘, ‘jump the shark‘, and definitely ‘how sharper than a serpent’s tooth…‘.

Then there are words which are commonly used but it didn’t occur to me that they fall under the category ‘idiom’, which in the video is explained as ‘a figure of speech used to mean something other than its literal meaning.’ Words such as ‘blacklist‘, ‘loophole‘, and ‘hot-blooded‘.

The 42 Mental Floss covered in the video are:

  1. Fly off the handle: to lose one’s temper
  2. Jump the shark: when a TV show takes a turn for the worse
  3. Beat/flog a dead horse: to waste time doing something that won’t succeed.
  4. Speak of the devil: to mention the name of one who then appears.
  5. Cup of tea: something one likes or is good at
  6. Ride shotgun: to ride iin the seat next to the driver
  7. Once in a blue moon: not often
  8. Cold shoulder: to intentionally ignore someone
  9. Caught red-handed: to be caught in the act of doing something wrong
  10. Apple of my eye: something that one values
  11. Skeleton in the closet: something one wants to keep a secret
  12. Blacklist: a list of disapproved items or people
  13. Silver lining: a positive aspect of a negative situation
  14. Bite the bullet: choosing to do something unpleasant
  15. To win hands down: winning easily
  16. Barking up the wrong tree: to look for something where there is nothing
  17. Head over heels: to be in love
  18. Beat around the bush: to avoid talking about something
  19. Bury the hatchet: to make peace
  20. Always a bridesmaid but never a bride: never the most successful or centre of attention
  21. Close, but no cigar: almost successful
  22. Pardon my French: to excuse a profanity
  23. Cold turkey: to stop a habit suddenly
  24. Busy as a bee: to be very busy
  25. Peeping Tom: a person who watches another secretly from a distance
  26. Spill the beans: to tell a secret
  27. Broken heart: to experience great sorrow
  28. Rise and shine: wake up
  29. Wolf in sheep’s clothing: to hide something bad under the guise of good
  30. Seeing eye to eye: to agree
  31. A leopard can’t change its spots: one can’t change who they are
  32. Halcyon days: a period of calm
  33. Loophole: ambiguity in the wording of a contract or law that allows one to avoid following it
  34. Get a life: go do something worthwhile
  35. Foaming at the mouth: to be uncontrollably angry
  36. Dish fit for the gods: a gourmet meal
  37. Hot blooded: to be easily aroused or angered
  38. In stitches: to laugh uncontrollably
  39. Green-eyed monster: to be jealous
  40. Wear your heart on your sleeve: to express one’s emotions openly
  41. One fell swoop: to happen as a single event
  42. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child: It is terrible to raise an ungrateful child
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