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Introduce Shoemaker to Tailor

The 1909 slang collection Passing English of the Victorian Era defines the phrase to introduce shoemaker to tailor this way: “Evasive metaphor for fundamental kicking.” In other words, to introduce shoemaker to tailor means to give...

My Dogs are Barking

My dogs are barking means “My feet hurt” or “My feet are tired.” As early as 1913, cartoonist Tad Dorgan was using the term dogs to mean “feet.” If your “dogs” in this sense are “barking,”...

Beautiful Words

What makes a word beautiful? Is it merely how it sounds? Or does a word’s meaning affect its aesthetic effect? Max Beerbohm had some helpful thoughts about gondola, scrofula, and other words in his essay “The Naming of Streets.”...

Around My Elbow to My Thumb

A colloquial apology for telling an overly long story is “Sorry I had to go around my elbow to get to my thumb.” The phrase is also a handy way to indicate you took the opposite of a shortcut. This is part of a complete episode.

Nerd Amelioration

Nerd used to be a term of derision, connoting someone who was socially awkward and obsessed with a narrow field of interest. Now it’s used more admiringly for anyone who has a passion for a particular topic. Linguists call that type of...

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