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