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Etymology of Mince

What do we mean by the expression “not to mince words”? The New York Times’ Paul Krugman often uses this idiom meaning “to be straightforward and blunt.” The verb mince means “to make small,” and is a...

Suggestions to Avoid Malapropisms

When it comes to proper grammar, “Where you at?” ain’t where it’s at. A mother is concerned that her child will pick up such malapropisms as “Where you at?” and “My mother and me went to the store.”...

Don’t Take Any Wooden Nickels

If you say to someone the Spanish equivalent of “you’re giving me green gray hairs” (me sacas canas verdes), it means that person is making you angry. In Japan, the phrase that literally translates as “one red dot”...

See the Elephant

If you’ve “seen the elephant,” it means you’ve been in combat. But why an elephant? Martha and Grant also discuss some odd idioms in Spanish, including one that translates as “your bowtie is whistling.” And what...

Like It or Lump It

Downton Abbey, a program featured on Masterpiece Theater, provided a handful of colorful expressions that date surprisingly far back. “Like it or lump it,” meaning “deal with it,” is found at least as early as 1830 and takes...

Venezuelan Potato Idiom

“You really love peeled potatoes.” That’s a translation of a Venezuelan idiom describing someone who’s lazy. Grant and Martha share other idioms from South America. This is part of a complete episode.