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Phrases, Clichés, Expressions & Sayings

Dark horse
Meaning: Example: Origin: An unknown quantity; a person/thing whose qualities are untried. Never having been previously seeded in the Wimbledon Cup, young Agassiz was the dark horse of the tennis match. This expression goes back to Benjamin Disraeli who, apart from finding time to regularly become Prime Minister, also found time to write a novel called, "The Young Duke". In the book, there is a description of a horse race in which the two favourites cannot make the running. In the meanwhile, "a dark horse" rushed past the grandstand in a sweeping triumph.

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Dead as a door nail
Meaning: Example: Origin: Actual or apparent total lack of life. You might as well junk that car, the engine is dead as a door nail. Nails were once hand tooled and costly. When an aging cabin or barn was torn down the valuable nails would be salvaged so he could reuse them in later construction. When building a door however, carpenters often drove the nail through then bent it over the other end so it couldn't work its way out during the repeated opening and closing of the door. When it came time to salvage the building, these door nails were considered useless, or "dead" because of the bend. Alternative: Medieval doors were studded with heavy nails - Doornails, one of which was used as a knocker. This nail was clearly very unresponsive and dead to the constant assault, hence the saying. Alternative: This may also be an example of an alliterative (the use of like consonants in neighboring words to create a sort of rhyme). _________________________________________________________________________ __________

The lookalike would often be convincing enough to fool the contracted killers. Debug: What computer programmers do to track down errors in computer programs ." Unscrupulous racehorse owners have a fast horse and a slow horse that are nearly identical in appearance. So when they buried them they put a rod into the ground with a string attached to a bell at the top of the rod. Dead in this case means abrupt or exact. They would shout out. A ringer usually makes a ringing sound when the shoe hits the post. She told me I was dead ringer for the Joe-kster.” A throw that results in a dead ringer is a perfect and precise throw exactly on the post. from which this phrase comes. is "substituted racehorse. You can get a ringer if the shoe encompasses the post. fault. “We have a Dead Ringer!” and dig them back up. or dead shot. flaw. Best alternate: A "dead ringer" is someone who can't cut it in the Joe-kster's handbell choir! _________________________________________________________________________ __________ Debug Meaning: Bug: An unexpected defect. hence a “dead ringer. Bubier. to appear in a public places. Thanks to Kurtis L. analogous to a perfect lookalike match. A perfect toss. is called a ringer. who can run much faster. . a ringer. but doesn't hit the post and doesn't make a ringing sound. or imperfection. people that were thought to be dead were buried and then sometimes awakened. with the horse shoe landing perfectly around the pin. like in dead stop.Dead ringer Meaning: Example: Origin: To look like someone else. Alternative: Before we knew what a coma even was. If the person awakened they rang they pulled the string and the bell rang at the top of the rod. They run the slow horse until the betting odds reached the desired level. There were always men on duty in the graveyard with shovels in case they ever heard a “Dead Ringer”. Cedar Pines Park California. Alternative: Refers to a ringer in the game of horse shoes. you can guess the part about dead. Alternative: Gangsters with contracts on their lives might hire a person who looked similar to them.they debug their programs. Is that good? The definition of ringer. then they substitute the ringer.

fault. The Julian calendar was in general use in Europe and Northern Africa from the times of the Roman Empire until 1582. Use of the word “bug” as a term for “fault” may have been used as early as the 14th century to mean “an object of dread” derived from the Welsh word “bwg” for “hobgoblin”. operators looking for the cause of a malfunction in Harvard University's Mark II Aiken Relay Calculator discovered a moth trapped in a relay. flaw or imperfection” with origins reaching back as far as 1622 (certainly not referring to computers as we know them today). Although Thomas Edison had earlier coined the term 'bug' as early as 1878 for system flaws. December in the Julian calendar had 29 days prior to 45 BC. this was the origin of the terms 'debug' and “debugging a computer program”. when Pope Gregory XIII started the Gregorian calendar. _________________________________________________________________________ __________ The twelfth month of the Julian and Gregorian calendars. The operators taped the moth to the computer log with the entry: “First actual case of bug being found”.Example: Origin: Trying to debug his C computer program for a memory leak proved to be much easier for Little Johnny than debugging his windshield. Deep Six . and 31 days as of 45 BC. Webster's Collegiate Dictionary cites it as meaning “an unexpected defect. On September 9. Picture of the “World’s First Computer Bug” “World’s First Computer Bug” in a Sudoku Puzzle Computer Bug Removal _________________________________________________________________________ __________ December Meaning: Example: Origin: The month “December” came from the Latin word for “tenth” since it was the tenth month of the Roman year. 1945.

Bush put himself in a dicey situation by entering Iraq.Meaning: Example: Origin: To remove something incriminating in a secretive manner. Whereas one might “86” an unneeded internal memo. The phrase refers to the risk and uncertainty of those games. It was also known as the Gunwale and was a very difficult place to get at for maintenance with the tar (pitch) needed to regularly seal (pay) the gaps in the ship's sides. potentially dangerous. . are played with dice. The "devil" is the heavy wooden beam used to support the big guns on sailing ships. "The devil to pay. It is part of a longer saying. and no pitch hot". To have a great deal of difficulty to access something. _________________________________________________________________________ __________ Dicey situation Meaning: Example: Origin: Risky. the devil here again being the wooden beam.that 6 fathoms was the legal minimum depth for the body to be immersed. The term may have derived from navigation in earlier centuries. Many betting games of chance. See aslo: Trivia Section _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Devil to pay Meaning: Example: Origin: This phrase has nothing to do with the Devil or money. Alternative: This term relates to burial at sea . where anything more than 6 fathoms (36 feet / 11m) deep under water was unlikely to be recovered. From this difficulty comes another related saying "Between the devil and the deep blue sea". one would “deep-six” an incriminating one. She deep-sixed last term's report card with a failing mark in Math. like craps.

the floor of the common people's houses was dirt.' meaning 'delicate. including one that it comes from the Icelandic by way of Swedish but no one accepts the vegetable origin.' There are other theories." Further Reference: The 1500s _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Do something gingerly Meaning: Example: Origin: "Ginger" has nothing to do with the vegetable "ginger" but probably has an origin in the Old French word 'genzor'. "dirt poor._________________________________________________________________________ __________ Dick Head Meaning: Origin: Ever wonder where the term 'Dick head' came from? Further Reference: Dick head _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dirt poor Meaning: Example: Origin: Reference to poor people. Some consider the poor people of America to be very hard done by when in fact most live like kings compared to the dirt poor people of the Medieval Ages. hence the saying. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ . To do something with caution. the comparative form of 'gent. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. In the 1500s.

for which the dog has no use. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dog's breakfast . Method to ensure that the same men do not do the same watch every day. To be a spoilsport. never-the-less he refuses to let the ox get at its fodder. The days in high summer when it's too hot even for dogs _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dog in a manger Meaning: Example: Origin: In Aesop's fables. The manger is full of hay. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dog watch Meaning: Example: Origin: The dog-watch was the pair of two hour afternoon shifts put into the normal sequence of four hourly stints in order to ensure that the same men did not do the same watch every day. The Romans believed that the star also gave out heat and was thus partly responsible for the hottest time of the year. a dog occupies an ox's manger. In this way they dodged around or the shifts were docked. hence Dog-days.Dog days Meaning: Example: Origin: In mid summer the dog-star Sirius rises with the Sun. to be unwilling to let others benefit when self benefit is not possible.

vomit. dog food prepared by humans tends to be a random mix of different things together and actually often looks somewhat like vomit. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Don't count your chickens before they hatch Meaning: Example: Origin: Aesop once wrote about a woman carrying a basket of eggs.Meaning: Example: Origin: A mess. In her mind she figured how much she would get for the chickens when the eggs hatched and exactly how she would spend the money. A long while. Further. Today we use this fable to warn people not be confident of getting a result. she dropped her basket. A slurring of pronunciation resulted in the present form. Every egg smashed. a lengthy period. realizing an ambition. She got so excited. Don't count on profits before you earn them or have them in hand. first recorded in 1916. The phrase is a reference to the appearance of what dogs eat. I tried my hand at oil painting but the results ended up looking like a dog's breakfast. or making a profit before it actually happens. Dogs are known to eat vomit. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Donkey's years Meaning: Example: Origin: This expression comes from the original parallel between "a long time" being likened to being as "long as donkey's ears". _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Don't look a gift horse in the mouth .

Hence you can tell a lot about a horse from inspection of the teeth. . the bands are worn away.Meaning: Example: Origin: Do not be critical of a gift.so don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Horses have gum lines that recede with age. and it also exists in many languages. Another is that there is a certain age range (like 6-10 years) where the teeth actually have some circular bands. a Latin version of it appeared in a work by St. Okay. Hence older horses have longer teeth than young horses. and the subsequent age. The phrase is apparently quite old. One is that younger horses actually have more teeth. A person would look in the horse's mouth to see the amount of wear. don't poke the bear. An Early english version (1510 AD) appears in John Standbridge's "Vulgari Standbrigi": "A gyuen hors may not (be) loked in the tethe. there are also several other things that happen. Jerome in 420 AD. If the teeth were ground down. To immediately judge a gift based on its worth or usefulness rather than the "thought" behind it considered rude. Thanks to Pamela Walker. and ungrateful (it is a gift after all. and didn't cost the receiver anything). for many older herbivores death comes from malnutrition due to this inability to chew enough food. After this age range." An older horse's teeth would be ground down from all the chewing. Apparently. the animal would be less likely to be able to ingest enough food. try not to aggravate someone who's easily angered. but it was free . In the wild. so the '70 Gremlin grandma gave you is not your idea of a babe magnet. Related phrase: "Long in the tooth". If you don't want to hear your father shout. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Don't poke the bear Meaning: Example: Origin: Don't annoy someone who's already irritated. To "look a horse in the mouth" is to examine the horse's mouth closely to determine its age (and therefore its usefulness and/or worth).

Management was eager to implement their 32nd Mission Statement and drastic company change . but its origins were not of good humour. In the 1500s. "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. The American usage suggests more of a feeling of trickery and deception. The origin is found in a Scottish rhyme in which "draw" is used in the sense of "pull" rather than the word itself: "He preached. then the women and finally the children . Hence the saying. the preacher pulled on her legs to ensure that she was dead. Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water." Further Reference: The 1500s .last of all the babies.they were ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water. Gwen wanted to hear the truth from him. to stop telling lies/fibs and to tell the truth._________________________________________________________________________ _____ Don't pull my leg Meaning: Example: Origin: A request to have someone stop playing a joe-ks. then all the other sons and men. However. The modern version of this expression conjures a sense of good humour about the whole concept. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Don't throw the baby out with the bath water Meaning: Example: Origin: Don't throw away good. Sae the Kirk got the gatherins o' our Aunty Meg. tried methods (which have worked for a long time) when you come up with doing something in a new way. they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odor. so she asked him to stop pulling her leg. most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June." The suggestion in the rhyme is that Aunty Meg was hung for a crime and. and at last drew the auld body's leg. at the end. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it.

Crossing the T has also become a naval term. illustrates crossing the T. It was also the strangest naval battle in the war. Their ability to fire in the direction the ship is pointed is limited to the front most turrets. Having crossed the T. Both sides were totally confused as to the disposition of enemy forces and both commanders made mistakes that seriously jeopardized their objectives. Your instructor is a tough grader. Admirals Kincaid and Halsey had the advantage of numbers and luck and won out. . However when firing perpendicular to the ship. Warships of the era had guns mounted in turrets distributed over the ship. The Japanese ships were caught in a single file line. The United States ships were positioned at the head of the line in a T fashion. which is in the Philippines._________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dot your 'i's and cross your 't's Meaning: Example: Origin: Complete the job paying attention to the details. be sure to dot your 'i's and cross your 't's on your research.S. The Japanese ships had the considerable disadvantage of having to fire straight ahead. not just writing. all turrets can be rotated and used. ships could point all the ship's guns towards the Japanese ships making it easy to fire on them. rendering the remaining guns useless for firing forward. The phrase has been extended to any job. the U. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Doubting Thomas Meaning: Requiring physical proof before believing in something. That battle (Leyte Gulf) marked the end of the Japanese navy. A naval engagement fought in the Surigao Straight during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. When writing. Someone in a rush might neglect to complete the task. many people complete a word before returning to dot the 'i's and cross the 't's. This formation is known as crossing the T in military circles.

the frown. I've been feeling a bit down in the mouth lately. let's put some food down the hatch. I realize that I haven't received any real bad joe-ks for at least 10 minutes. Thomas became the first person to explicitly acknowledge Jesus' divinity. "Down in the mouth" refers to the down turned corners of the mouth. saying “My Lord and my God. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Down to the gnat's ass . The freight appears to be consumed by the ship.Example: Origin: Harry's a real doubting Thomas . He is best known for requiring physical proof of Jesus' Resurrection before he could believe it. In all cultures and throughout history sad persons have had the corners of their mouth turned down in what is the recognized symbol of sadness.” _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Down in the mouth Meaning: Example: Origin: To be depressed or sad.” When Jesus reappeared and had Thomas touch his wounds.he never listens to any good advice from his wife. Enough talk. hence the phrase “Doubting Thomas. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Down the hatch Meaning: Example: Origin: Drink or eat. where cargoes are lowered into the hatch for transport below deck. Here's a drinking expression that seems to have its origins in sea freight. Saint Thomas was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ.

Hence . Anything specified to a level as fine as a gnat's ass is indeed very detailed. and we had to run to our gate. as such they have extremely small backsides. or using a long stroke. specified or completed to a high level of detail. That string is called the wire or tape. When the ball is on the green. something unexpected comes up. Just when you think you are down to the short strokes. The traffic on the way to the Vancouver airport was gross. A painter begins on a clean canvas using large and broad strokes of the brush. he must get the ball in the hole by putting . _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Down to the short strokes Meaning: Example: Origin: Approaching the end of a long process. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Down to the wire Meaning: Example: Origin: Undecided until the end. Felix cleaned his apartment right down to the gnat's ass. The "wire" is actually string. This phrase refers to races where the winner is determined by whoever crosses the finish line first. Gnats are very small flying insects. As the painting progresses the brush strokes become shorter and finer as detail is filled into the painting.Meaning: Example: Origin: Extremely thorough. he hits the ball towards the green by driving. at the last minute We almost missed our flight. No need to be concerned about those horses tripping and getting themselves caught in the wire. it came right down to the wire.or taking "short" strokes. Building a house is a long ordeal. A string is stretched across the finish to help the judges see clearly who crosses first in a close race. When a golfer begins at the tee. the winner is the one who breaks the wire first. Think of horse racing and foot races. tape. or paper and not a metal wire at all.

_________________________________________________________________________ _____ Draw the line Meaning: Example: Origin: Define a threshold that can't be crossed without action or retaliation.. and away commanded all the rest without least stay. And Marit rose and walked up after him with dragging feet. Harvard Classics Shelf of Fiction by Bj�rnstjerne Bj�rnson (1917): “Be quick now!” said the grandfather up on the slope. Comes from one of the Psalms which contains a reference about "drawing a line in the sand" meaning to "proceed no further. Riis (1902): "And justice to Jacob is being evolved. dragging them to fleet. One of the earliset references to this phrase can be found in the Ninth Book of Homer's Odysseys (George Chapman." _________________________________________________________________________ _____ ." Alternative: A Happy Boy. "Justice to the Boy" by Jacob A." Alternative: The skeleton (originally called tobogganing) was invented in St. 1857): "But. I wrapt in sure bands both their hands and feet. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dragging your feet Meaning: Example: Origin: Not keeping up with everyone else in something you're doing." It has been shortened to "draw the line. Not yet without obstruction and dragging of feet." Alternative: The Battle with the Slum. and cast them under hatches. steering was accomplished by shifting weight or dragging the feet.. You can leave your pet skunk outside. Switzerland in the late 19th Century. I should have washed my car but I dragged my feet about it all day. Used in the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympic Games."down to the wire" means the event is not decided until the very end of the event. Moritz. but I draw the line at bringing it inside the house.

dressed well. parallel with the vertical line of the suit. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Drive carefully . you must pay for such waste. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dressed to the nines Meaning: Example: Origin: Dressed flamboyantly.Dressed to a tea Meaning: Example: Origin: Well dressed with attention to detail. Beware any salesman that is dressed to a tea. This causes a great amount of waste in suit making. Alternative: This saying originated in Shakespeare's time and is connected with the price a person had to pay for theater tickets depending on where their seats were located. or long strands of thread. Common lore has it that a tailor making a high quality suit uses more fabric. If you sat in the expensive seats you would feel obliged to dress up so as not to look out of place with the other wealthy patrons. In the Victorian era. The best suits are made from nine yards of fabric. This is because a god suit has all the fabric cut in the same direction with the warp. and talks fast. The farthest seats were one pence and the ones closest to the stage were nine pence. smiles too much. A short way of saying "dressed for a tea" or "dressed to go to a tea". high tea was a formal affair. Alternative: The meaning is drawn from the phrase "the whole nine yards" which has come to mean a complete high quality job without cutting corners. All proper people dressed in appropriate attire. This may seem like a lot but a proper suit does indeed take nine yards of fabric.. New years eve is the one day of the year when people like to go out dressed to the nines. but if you want to go "dressed to the nines".

The port was called Deolali which became Anglicised and used as a term of semi-abuse. A modern version would be "drive carefully". Don't be such a stranger. There they had to wait. Alternative: A large "lunatic asylum" in Deolali may have played a role in the evolution of the phrase. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Drive someone doolally Meaning: Example: Origin: To drive someone mad. His walk across the Sahara Desert was enough to drive him doolally . Alternative: "Deo" in Urdu means "Devil".next time he planned to use Rent-A-Camel. British troops in India were sent back to Britain for redeployment. Troopships were the means of transport and the troops were sent to the appropriate port to await the arrival of the ship. Norwegian "farvel" means "travel well (safe)". . _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Drop a dime Meaning: Example: Origin: Make a phone call. Pay phones cost 35 cents today. Drop a dime some time. They were nearly driven mad by boredom. often for weeks. This is a good phrase to discuss with anyone born after 1970. and "Lal" means "Red". After a tour of duty. in the heat and humidity. but they really did cost 10 cents at one time. The dime was dropped into the slot of the pay phone.Meaning: Example: Origin: Drive carefully! All teenage drivers get irritated with their parents constantly reminding them to drive carefully.

recruiting. where tramps would normally take their refreshment. the big question was not his guilt but if the jury would drop the hammer and call for the death penalty.from tramps' slang derived from the Romany 'drom' (highway). means to use the toilet. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Drop the hammer Meaning: Example: Origin: To kill someone.Along similar lines is "to spend a penny" which in the U. Popularized by the seemingly tireless stream of police dramas on television. Alternative: To make a meal or a drink .K. summon support or interest. The "hammer" is the hammer of a gun. During the Paul Bernardo and Karla Homolka trial. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Drum up support Meaning: Example: Origin: A military term which described the custom of recruiting parties marching into town and announcing their arrival with fife and drum. Ducking in and out of traffic . Their duty was described as Drumming up recruits. When the gun is cocked. the hammer has been pulled back. Pulling the trigger drops the hammer onto the cartridge. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Obtain. The penny refers to the price of admission to a public pay toilet. firing the gun.

S. Unbeknownst to a lot of people. The ducks hold the keel perfectly straight so the ship will be absolutely square athwart and fore-an-aft when it is being constructed. Navy (when building a new ship) lines up a number of ducks with a laser bean so that they are absolutely straight in a line. Baby ducklings swim in a straight line behind the mother duck. If you don't get your ducks in a row. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Dunce Meaning: Example: Origin: The word dunce derives unfairly from Duns Scotus. Landlubbers use the phrase to mean "get your business organized"._________________________________________________________________________ _____ Ducks in a row Meaning: Example: Origin: To have things in order. along with his followers (who were called “Duns men”). a "duck" is a great big thing. a brilliant thirteenth-century Scottish philosopher who. bigger than your car that is so heavy that it has to be moved with a crane. then the beginning piece of the new boat (the keel) is clamped in. the mother duck will get them back in line. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ . Scotus was ridiculed for being different and for daring to express his own thoughts. As unfair as the sight of a child in a conical dunce cap. you will be replaced. And so the first thing that is done in shipbuilding is to "get your ducks in a row". that is get her ducks in a row. Thanks to Byron Burson. and has jaws that open to make it a giant vise. Someone considered out of step. but sailors know that this expression comes from the boatbuilding trade. The U. Alternative: Contrary to popular belief this phrase has nothing to do with little yellow ducklings following their Mother duck all in a straight line. If the ducklings stray to far. resisted the thinking within the Renaissance that swept the Middle Ages.

"Dutch metal" . uncompromising.joe-ks. "I'm a Dutchman" and "Dutch courage" come from the 17th century when the Dutch were hated military and commercial rivals of the English.temporary bravery induced by alcohol. "Dutch courage: .com/phrases/phrasesD.Dutch treat Meaning: Example: Origin: "Dutch Treat". Examples: "Dutch reckoning" . deep felt beliefs.a bill that is presented without any details. Jean Chretien was a dyed-in-the-wool Liberal.where somebody might say "thank God it is no worse!". dedicated. with all the patronage money to made in federal politics? The phrase relates to the medieval method of adding dye to raw wool rather than to spun wool or finished cloth. The final colour was much more long lasting and deeply ingrained than dyeing at later stages of manufacture. Why not.htm#ixzz2PBmSjQdN . "Dutch widow" . If something is dyed-in-the-wool. and which only gets bigger if you question it. "Dutch comfort" or "Dutch consolation" . "Dutch auction" .a prostitute. Dyed in the wool Meaning: Example: Origin: An individual with fixed. Read more: http://www.someone who criticises or rebukes you with the frankness of a relative. it's unlikely to change.one in which the prices go down instead of up. "Dutch uncle" . committed. "Dutch concert" .each musician plays a different tune. _________________________________________________________________________ _____ Those invited to pay for themselves.an alloy of copper and zinc used as a substitute for gold foil.