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Many Happy Returns? Return to What?

Rick in San Diego, California, wants to know why his older relatives always inscribed birthday cards with the phrase many happy returns of the day. This phrase, and the shorter version, many happy returns, indicates that the speaker is sending...

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...

The Cat Can Look at the Queen

Nancy in Panama City Beach, Florida, remembers that as a girl, whenever she asked why her mother was looking at her, her mother would respond, “Well, can’t the cat look at the queen?” This phrase goes all the way back to the mid...

If a Frog Had a Pouch

A San Diego, California, woman is baffled by her husband’s saying: “If a frog had a pouch, he’d carry a gun.” It has to do with wishing for the impossible, similar to the saying “If wishes were horses, beggars would...