Tag Archives: Britain

Cliche Sunday

Here we are again, on a lovely Sunday night. Once more I had a busy weekend. I guess that is just par for the course at this point. Hmmm, I didn’t do that one when I did the “Ps.” Guess I can’t get them all! I do seem to be adjusting to this hectic weekend pace, I guess we can get used to anything 🙂

So on to “S.”

safe as houses: to be completely safe and secure.  I have always wondered about this one. I mean, I do feel safe in a house during, say,  a thunderstorm; but still an odd saying overall. This particular phrase came from our friends in Britain, and from  a time period when safe was more commonly used to mean certainty rather than our current usage, with safe meaning security.  When picking a simile, one does tend to be over the top; so large and conspicuous houses were an easy fit.

No uncertainty here, guv’nor,” answered one of his captors. “You’re booked, safe as houses.
                                James Friswell, Out & About, 1860

one sandwich short of a picnic: an amusing way to indicate that someone is not all that smart. There are quite a few phrases that use ‘X is short of Y,’

with the meaning that someone is not clever. I rather like this one, however, it just sounds funny. It also comes from across the pond, with the first noted usage in 1987 in  BBC’s Lenny Henry Christmas Special.

scarper: to depart hurriedly. I have read this one before, where a character would scarper off, but I didn’t think it would be a cliché, as it was one word versus an actual phrase. I do seem to be picking ones for my own enjoyment today, as I also find the idea of anyone scarpering completely hilarious 🙂 The word comes from Italian word ‘scappare’, meaning to escape.

He must hook it before ‘day-light does appear’, and then scarper by the back door.
                                                         Swell’s Night Guide, 1846

season of mists and mellow fruits: a lovely, wordy way of saying autumn. Once more, this comes from Britain, in the 1820s. British poet John Keats used the phrase:

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.
To Autumn, 1820

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