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More Expressions from the Bible

The earliest recorded appearance of the phrases a house divided cannot stand and the powers that be occurred in early English translations of the Bible. Although the exact phrase a fly in the ointment isn’t in the Bible, the idea of a dead fly...

Counting-Out Rymes for Toes

Susan from Virginia Beach, Virginia, remembers a toe-counting game from her childhood that goes “This toe tight / this penny white / this toe tizzle / this penny wizzle.” She doesn’t recall the rest and has no idea where it came...

A Back Friend is a False Enemy

The expression back friend is an old term that means an enemy who pretends to be a friend. It’s more insidious than the modern coinage, frenemy. This is part of a complete episode.

When A Salamander is a Heater

Jason in San Antonio, Texas, is curious why the term salamander is applied to small heater on a construction site. In ancient lore, the mythical beast called a salamander was impervious to fire. Later salamander was applied to various heating...

Mark Twain’s Writing Advice

Writing advice from Mark Twain, who was not a fan of adjectives. In The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, he says, “As to the adjective, when in doubt, strike it out.” He also wrote a letter with clever, useful advice that still holds true for the...

Greek Expressions

In English, the expression keep your eyes peeled means “pay close attention” or “be on the lookout.” In modern Greek, the equivalent is ta matia sou dekatessera, literally, “your eyes fourteen.” In Greece today...

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