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Pepper Alley

A kindergartener misunderstands the name of an event at his school, insisting to his mother that he attended a pepper alley, not a pep rally. Let’s hope that’s the case, because pepper alley is actually 19th-century boxing slang for...

Starting from Scratch

Carol in Williamsburg, Virginia, wonders why if you bake something and don’t rely on pre-mixed ingredients, you’re said to bake it from scratch. This expression originally referred to a line scratched into the ground to mark the starting...

Symmachy

Symmachy is a rare word that means “an alliance to fight together against something,” the sym- coming from a Greek word that means “together” and the -machy from a Greek word that means “fight.” Similarly, a...

Throw in the Towel

The phrase throw in the towel, meaning to give up, originated in the world of boxing. An earlier phrase from the same sport that carried the same metaphorical meaning is chuck in the sponge. This is part of a complete episode.

Cold Turkey Origins

When you quit something abruptly, you’re said to quit cold turkey. This expression’s origin is unknown although its earliest recording uses are from 19th-century boxing. This is part of a complete episode.

Ham-and-Egger

A ham-and-egger job, meaning a weak effort or a dud, comes from boxing, where a ham-and-egger fighter doesn’t have much fight in him, it’s just someone doing it to earn a meal. The idiom goes as far back as at least 1918, when it showed...