Tag Archives: turns of phrase

Rare as Hen’s Teeth

Twists & Turns of Phrase When something is as rare (or scarce) as hen’s teeth, it is very rare to find it, perhaps even impossible. This phrase first came into use in mid–19th century America, where anyone with a chicken … Continue reading

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Bells and Whistles

Twists & Turns of Phrase When something’s got all the bells and whistles, it has been constructed with lots of extra features—usually ones that aren’t strictly needed. This phrase is often used to describe electronics, motor vehicles, and other complex … Continue reading

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The Last Straw

Twists & Turns of Phrase The last straw or final straw is a problem or annoyance that on its own would be a trifling matter, but that, when added to series of previous irks and irritations, seems intolerable. This turn … Continue reading

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English Down Under

The past couple of weeks I’ve been wandering around in Sydney, Australia, so it seems fitting to make today’s post a roundup of fun and informative links about the ways that English happens down here. The Macquarie Dictionary and ABC … Continue reading

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Beyond the Black Stump

Twists & Turns of Phrase Something that’s beyond the black stump is beyond or outside the realm of civilized life. This Australian idiom or saying originated with the colonial-era habit of setting a charred stump of wood as a landmark for … Continue reading

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A Wild Goose Chase

Twists & Turns of Phrase Calling something a wild goose chase is another way of saying it’s a foolish pursuit or endeavour. Is that because it’s hard to catch a wild goose? Or because people look foolish trying to do … Continue reading

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The Dead Hand (of Something or Other)

Twists & Turns of Phrase When something is held by the dead hand of something else, it is being prevented from attaining its goals. For instance, social progress might be held back by the dead hand of the status quo. … Continue reading

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Open a Can of Worms

A person who opens a can of worms tries to solve a problem, but in doing so creates a lot of new unanticipated complications.

For some reason I always see the image of the snake-in-a-can gag whenever I hear this turn of phrase, but this is clearly just my unusual brain at work. So I wonder just where this saying does come from… Continue reading

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Sell Like Hotcakes

When something sells like hotcakes it sells quickly and in large quantities.

I like a hotcake as much as the next person, but do they really sell that well? Yes, they do, or at least they did at county fairs in the 1800s… Continue reading

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