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Etymology of Buckle Down

Buck up, meaning toughen up or get it together, has a long history stemming from the days when travelling trunks had buckles on them that needed to be fastened. Over the years, variations like “buckle down” and “buckle” have...

Up and Quit

Why do people up and quit? Can’t they just … quit? In the 1300s, up and followed by an action literally meant you got up and did something. Today, it’s taken the figurative meaning of doing something with vigor and enthusiasm, and...

Silly Changed Meaning

The word silly didn’t always have its modern meaning. In the 1400s, silly meant happy or blessed. Eventually, “silly” came to mean weak or in need of protection. Other seemingly simple words have shifted meanings as the English...

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...

Stoved Fingers

In an earlier episode, we discussed various meanings for the term stove up. One meaning of stove up is “to be in pain from work or exercise to the point where it’s hard to move.” Similarly, lots of athletes will get stoved fingers...

Raining Cats and Dogs

Get out your umbrellas — it’s raining pitchforks and … bullfrogs? This week, it’s odd expressions that mean “a heavy downpour.” Also, holistic vs. wholistic, recurrence vs. reoccurrence, flash drive vs. thumb drive...