I realized this week just how important our ABCs are. I came to this realization as I found misfiled orders, and I wondered if someone had a bad day, or just wasn’t paying attention in school. I decided that I would do an ABC round of clichés, which is quite an undertaking, as this will take 27 weeks. I feel confident that each letter will provide unusual and interesting phrases, so don’t despair!
And, on to the A’s:
a bunch of fives: a fist, the fingers being the five. An old-fashioned boxing term, I learned this cliché in old gangster films. The earliest record of it is in the Boxiana, a book by Pierce Egan in 1821. Boxiana was history of boxing, but is quite hard to get hold of currently to verify the origin of the phrase. It was later used in 1825:
….. with their bunches of fives….
–Charles Westmacott The English Spy
a foregone conclusion: a decision that is made before all the details are in, an inevitable fate. Even when doing my ABCs, I manage to find Shakespeare 🙂
But this denoted a foregone conclusion:
‘Tis a shrewd doubt, though it be but a dream.
across the board: to embrace all, without thought to class or race. This has been expanded to mean any subject, no exceptions to that subject. This came from bookmakers, as the phrase “encompassing all aspects.”* First coined in America, “an ‘across the board’ wager is one in which equal amounts are bet on the same contestant to win, place, or show.”*
age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety: before “she walks in cloudless climes” was used to describe utter beauty, there was Cleopatra:
Never; he will not:
Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale
Her infinite variety: other women cloy
The appetites they feed: but she makes hungry
Where most she satisfies; for vilest things
Become themselves in her: that the holy priests
Bless her when she is riggish.
Shakespeare Antony and Cleopatra, 1606
And, finally, for those caught up in election fury:
agree to disagree: to set aside an irreconcilable argument to continue a discussion or relationship. This one could be American (1785) or English (1770), but with a lack of evidence either way, I think we can just agree to disagree on the source of the cliché. It certainly has been around for a long time, however, and is still currently used.