Tag Archives: cliches

Cliche Fiction

“So, here’s the deal,” Fred said, “I’m gonna be a’betting, so I need  you to aid me.”

“Huh?” Greg responded, returning his attention to Fred.

He had been looking around the aged casino. What a grand old dame she must have been, he thought, looking past the faded chairs lining  the slot machines. The drapes were a fine fabric, the rugs had once been plush and the chandeliers were fine glass. Dusty, but glittering underneath.

“Just like that old saying,” Fred repeated. “I’m gonna be abetting over at that table, and I need you to aid me. Aid and abet, you know.”

“That’s not…”Greg started to say before shaking his head.  What had Pete got him into? “What do you need me to do?”

“I got my thing,” Fred said smugly.  “I just need your handsome face to keep that dealer girl over there from paying attention to me while I do it.”

Greg looked over at the tall dealer with the glossy dark hair. Men must be hitting on her all the time, he thought. Still,  Greg knew that girls liked him and he figured he could keep her busy, at least long enough for Fred to do his “thing.”

Well, damn, Greg thought with a dawning smile, that is aiding and abetting!!

 

aid and abet: to encourage and help, particularly in the case of nefarious or illegal activities.  Anyone that has watched any cop show in the last twenty years (or more) knows this phrase. Cops are always threatening people with being charged with “aiding and abetting” if people don’t give up the suspects, or even sometimes, actually charging people with it.  The phrase dates from the second half of the 18th century. The original meaning of abet was “to cause to bite,” but by then the word had lost that particular meaning and was more similar to the current meaning of encourage. The previous meaning had come from the practice of bear abetting, or bear baiting. Bear baiting was a popular sixteenth century entertainment where bears were tethered in “bear gardens” and trained dogs set loose to tear them apart. (I know, I know, don’t even get me started. I am sure the German “beer gardens” are far more entertaining. And I don’t like beer.)
The history of “abet” came from several countries, but does make sense of the “bear abetting” meaning:

1275-1325; Middle English abette (whence Old French abeter, unless perhaps the latter, of Germanic orig., be the source for the ME),
 OldEnglish *ābǣtan to hound on, equivalent to ā- a-3bǣtan to bait, akin to bite*

*dictionary.com

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Cliche Sunday……

……..will return next weekend. I would love to say it is due to the holiday weekend, but in reality is because I have had the last three days off and I have been working my butt off outdoors and I am whipped. I do have the next two days off as well (mini-vaca!!), so another post may magically appear.

Meanwhile, in honor of Memoria Day:

Thank you to every body who served  in our military, whether in an office or the front lines. You are all important and all gave part of your life to keep us safe. Thank you. 

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Cliche Sunday

And, on to the V’s! Of course, V is a bit rare, so it will be interesting to see just how many clichés can be found starting V. The site I use actually stuck U and V together, like many file sets do. And the book I use only has one, and it doesn’t even truly start with V– “Violin, to play second.” I think I will skip that one 🙂

veg out: to relax, or, as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, to lay like broccoli.  The phrase did come from the 1990s, and while popular in London literary circles during that decade, the earliest version of it can be found in Pretty Woman. The origin is from the idea of people with limited brain capacity as vegetables, lying in bed and unable to do move. Couch Potato has a similar origin.

vicious circle: a self-perpetuating cycle that has no improvement as it circles back to the beginning of the process. This was used as logicians in the 1800s originally as a method of describing a fake philosophies:

A depends on B
B depends on C
C depends on A

The term was picked up for use in the mid 1800s by medical practitioners, and was found first in figurative form in 1892:

The whole situation works in a kind of inevitable rotary way – in what would be called a vicious circle.
                                            Henry James’ Notebooks

vanish into thin air: to disappear, whether it be a person, a wallet, or just that thing you so desperately need to find and were sure you left on the kitchen table. This one is mostly likely a a variation of the phrase Shakespeare used in Othello:

Clown:
Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I’ll away. Go; vanish into air; away!
                                   1602

 verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things: literal meaning, and quite timely if you actually listen to our politicians. This quote is attributed to Dan Qualye, President Bush (Sr)’s vice president, who is otherwise best known for his youth and inability to spell the plural of potato. While many politicians do seem to talk in a vicious circle, an excellent demonstration of this phrase is given by Donald Rumsfield:

                      Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

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Cliche Sunday

Another week has flown by! A rather wet week to be sure, but a week none the less. I guess that means we are on to U! I don’t think there are all that many clichés that start with U, but we shall see what we can find…..

under your hat: keep it secret. There was never anything to hide under one’s hat, although stories do abound about keeping gold or even spare arrow strings under an archer’s hat. Truly it simply means to keep information in your head, and share only as needed.  The phrase originated in the nineteenth century, most likely in Britain.

Thus, oh friendly readers, we see how every man in the world has his own private griefs and business… You and your wife have pressed the same pillow for forty years and fancy yourselves united. Psha, does she cry out when you have the gout, or do you lie awake when she has the toothache? … Ah, sir – a distinct universe walks about under your hat and under mine.
                                       The History of Pendennis, William Makepeace Thackeray, 1848

up the apples and pears: up the stairs. Another fun  example of cockney rhyming.  This type of slang is made when words are replaced by any words or phrases they rhyme with, although no relationship other than the rhyme is requires. Whether this  slang is meant to exclude outsiders, or simply be creative is unknown.

the usual suspects: most likely criminals in the area to have committed a crime, although whether they actually did it is of little consequence. This one has a clear history: the film Casablanca, 1942. Captain Louis Renault makes the statement after the main character Rick Blaine shot a Nazi, and the Captain tells the investigating police to “round up the usual suspects” instead of turning in Rick.

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Cliche Sunday

I have been a book-a-holic this week. At this moment, I am fighting the urge to put away my laptop and pull out my e-reader. It has been a while since I had a reading frenzy,but once I gave in…… I read six books this past week–or was it seven?

Unfortunately, the rest of my life tends to suffer when I get like this. Especially my blogs. But I am making a concerted effort here to get the ‘T’ clichés in before giving in to my next book.  So here we go:

technicolor yawn: throwing up. I had never heard this one, and thought it, well, colorful until I saw the meaning. Not a fan of vomit; mine, yours or descriptions thereof. However, since I went to the trouble of looking it up….this phrase comes from our friends down under in Australia. It has been around from at least the 1960s, when Barry Humphries used it (fairly gracefully):

When I swallowed the last prawn,
I had a technicolor yawn and I chundered in the old Pacific Sea.
                      A Nice Night’s Entertainment

tall story: a fake, doozy of a story with very little basis in reality. Given our need to exaggerate, there are many names for such  boastful stories–tall talk, tall writing,tall tales, and even Munchausens. Munchausens were named after the Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron von Münchhausen. He was well-known as a “purveyor of extravagantly untruthful stories about himself.”* In America, the stories became a tradition around the campfire, with each storyteller trying to outreach the previous teller, making the tales taller and taller.

that’s all she wrote: an end to one’s plans. While there are a few versions of where this came from, it definitely came from America in the early twentieth century. The first– and unsubstantiated  –version is a Marine during WWII who received a Dear John letter, and told his friends mournfully that she broke up with him and that’s all she wrote. It was definitely used to title  a popular country song by Ernest Tubb in 1942:

I got a letter from my mama, just a line or two
She said listen daddy your good girl’s leavin’ you
That’s all she wrote – didn’t write no more
She’d left the gloom a hanging round my front door.

Although he probably popularised the saying, the first time in print can be found even early, in 1935:

No power except that of the legislature can change the rolls. The assessor-collectors do not have the power, the commissioners’ courts do not have the power. That’s all she wrote and it’s final, the attorney general says in language much more eloquent and technical.
                   Texas newspaper The Brownsville Herald

the bane of my life: the instrument of ruin in one’s life. We often call someone or something the bane of our existence in modern times; such as an annoying coworker or mosquitoes while camping. Bane, however, is a much stronger word than we give it credit for. In Old English, bane actually meant murderer–a much more serious threat. Later bane came to mean anything that might cause death, thus the multitude of plants with ‘bane’ in the name: wolfsbane, hensbane, ratsbane; to name a few. The earliest printed record of this phrase comes from 1592, so we can safely assume that the author was using the phrase with the Old English meaning:

He that like a Lacedemonian, or Romane, accounteth Infamy worse than death, would be loath to emprove his courage, or to employ his patience, in digestinge the pestilent bane of his life.
                     Gabriel Harvey, Foure Letters and certaine Sonnets

To quote Porky Pig, t-th-that’s all folks!

Now, shall I go work in the greenhouse or is it time to read???

 

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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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Cliche Sunday

Well, I would like to skip today, but as I skipped last week, I guess I will be a good girl!

My husband and I built a small greenhouse out back by the vegetable garden. It came out good, but the instructions were not top-notch, and it took from 9:15 am to 5:30 pm today. I got nothing done besides that, and unfortunately, no napping either! Ah well. Pretty sure I complained last time I did clichés too; that means it must be spring and we are busy, busy, busy getting things done for the farm.

So on to the clichés of the day:R!

rank and file: ordinary people in the group rather than the leaders. This phrase originated in the military, from the soldiers who formed ranks when doing drills in front of the officers. It comes from as far back as the sixteenth century:

To learne to keepe his ranke and file orderly
Robert Barret, The theorike [sic] and practike of moderne warres, 1598

revenge is a dish best served cold: vengeance is most satisfying when done after the fact, when well planned out. Although this sounds like it might be Shakespearean, or an even older classic phrase, it comes from the 1800s. The first written example is an English translation of a French text, so the actual origin is up for grabs.

And then revenge is very good eaten cold, as the vulgar say.
Eugène Sue’s novel Memoirs of Matilda,  translated into English by D. G. Osbourne 1846

rise and shine: getting up and heading off to start  your day in  timely fashion.  And who hasn’t had a parent tell them that it was time to rise and shine? I know I heard it a lot as I rolled over  and tucked myself deeper in my blankets. The phrase itself comes from the Bible, although it is found in many other religious texts as well:

They [the Christian saints] shall so rise and shine, that the glory shall rise upon them
The Testimony of William Erbery, 1658

rock and roll: of course, we all know what rock and roll is. But when and how did the term come into being? The phrase was used in a  1930s movie, and had some other meanings as well before a dj named Alan Freed was came up with a radio show named “Moondog’s Rock n Roll Party in 1951.

 

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Cliche Sunday

Here we are again. Sunday already, after a very long weekend. Am I hedging, to let you know this might be a short post?

Yup, I am! I ran about yesterday doing errands, getting the horses’ manicures, walking the dog and practically steamcleaning the house. Today my husband decided it was time to get out and start the logging for the year. I didn’t complain, since we were cutting down the trees that shade my vegetable garden in the late afternoon.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and natureThis is before. And yes, I am standing in roughly the same place. Also, look at that 6 foot ladder leaning against the tree we cut down–tree makes it look like a toy, doesn’t it?? Sadly, that tree did not go to plan, but we all walked away–well, except for the tree, that is 😉

Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

Anyhoo, on to the reason we are all here-cliches!! And since we are on “Q,” the alphabet is helping me keep this short. Not a lot of “Q’s” out there anyway.

quick and the dead: all souls, living or dead. Many of us are familiar with the phrase from recent movies, particularly westerns. Quick in this application is not referring to speed, but rather the “quick” of life. The first time a baby moves in the womb is called the quickening, while quicksand means that the sand it has life, moving.But the phrase far predates any movies, being first found in the Bible. In the Bible it notes that only the Almighty can judge the quick and the dead–meaning all souls, whether they still live or have passed.

quid pro quo: to do something with the expectation of a favor in return. This cliché is an original Latin version that has become popular, literally meaning “something for something.”  But there are many versions in English as well;

One good turn deserves another.
           H. L’Estrange’s The Reign of King Charles, 1654

Or there is always “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” or even  the basic “I do for you, you do for me.” In recent years, the English versions have been used in many crime movies, giving them a rather Mob flavor. The Latin quid pro quo,however,  being used in law and legal contracts, sounds classier and has become more popular.

quality time: spending time with a neglected child/spouse/friend to make up for the neglect. This is an American phrase with roots in the ’70s.  The family was expanding in the  1970s, with women entering the workforce. The idea of quality time was to ensure that she felt she really could do it all:

How To Be Liberated–

The major goal of each of these role changes is to give a woman time to herself, Ms. Burton explained.”A woman’s right and responsibility is to be self fulfilling,” she said. She gives “quality time” rather than “quantity time” to each task, whether it be writing, cleaning the house or tending the children.
                                           Maryland newspaper The Capital, January 1973

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Cliche Sunday

Spring seems to have sprung in our corner of the world (if you ignore the threat of mixed snow/rain on Tuesday). I couldn’t be happier. We went down to our local flower show today, and I still have the energy and will to write about clichés. How marvelous. Love this time of year! So where were we again?

Oh yes, “P. ” Here we go:

pass the buck: to put the blame on someone else and slough responsibility. So who hasn’t heard this one? I admit, I always thought the “buck” was a dollar, without stopping to think why that would make sense. Are you  paying the next person to take the blame? No, actually, you aren’t. The “buck” is actually an article used during poker. In order to keep a game honest, the tradition of having the deal pass from player to player was formed. The next dealer was given a marker, often a knife, as they were easy to hand. If a player didn’t want to deal, they were allowed to “pass the buck” on to the next person. The nickname “buck” most likely came from the fact that many knives in the late 19th century had buck’s horn handles. The fashion later became given silver dollars as the marker, which is probably how money also became known as “bucks.”

panic stations: a call to alert, often exaggerated; ie: a retail store might call “panic stations” for its employees as it opened the doors on Black Friday. This is a naval phrase, a station being a part of the ship a sailor was assigned to. The Royal Navy, in particular, had several calls to orders; one of which was “action stations” if the ship came under attack.  “Panic stations” was an actual order as well:

Alarm gongs had already sent the guns’ crews to their invisible guns and immediately after the explosion ‘Panic stations’ was ordered, followed in due course by ‘Abandon ship’.
                         Behind the Veil, published in The Times, November 1918

pooped: battered and tired. This phrase also has naval, um, roots. The foredeck of a ship is called the poop deck. As it faces the storms and waves, it is most likely to be battered and worn during a tough journey. The damage was called “pooped,” and sailors took that phrase home with them. They would say they were “pooped” like the ship when they were exhausted. The colorfulness of the phrase took hold, and was used on land almost more than on the waves.

pulling strings: to manipulate a situation to one’s benefit. This term, of course, comes from puppeteering. While everyone is entertained by the puppets on the stage, they all know that there is someone backstage choreographing the activity. An excellent puppeteer can give a flawless performance and no one will pay attention to him being backstage.

play ducks and drakes: to squander your money. Ducks and Drakes is the official name for the old-fashioned skipping of stones across water. It was given that name as a properly skipped stone looked like a fowl rising from the water. But even the best skipper can fail to get a run across the water, and all eventually lose speed and drop beneath the water. Therefore, a person who suddenly has an abundance of money, and enjoys it quickly, can be said to be playing “ducks and drakes” with his money.  The phrase itself it old, first being found in The Nomenclator, or Remembrancer of Adrianus Junius:

a kind of sport or play with an oister shell or stone throwne into the water, and making circles yer it sinke….It is called a ducke and a drake, and a halfe-penie cake
       Hong Higgins, 1584

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Cliche Sunday…

….has returned. Were you wondering if I forgot last Sunday? I didn’t but with the time change and all the work I did around the house (which resulted in me icing my knee as I may overdone just a bit), I was in no shape to write a post. My brain felt like mush.

So here we are this week, with exciting ‘N’ cliches-because, you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

not dry behind the ears: as unsophisticated and uncomplicated as a baby. I haven’t heard this one much recently, but I did hear it quite a bit while growing up. It came directly from the farm, an American farm at that. The phrase, of course, refers to newborn calves/sheep, whose ears take a while to dry out. The phrase hasn’t been used in literature all that much, making it harder to track its date of origin. It seems to have appeared in the American countryside sometime mid-nineteenth century.

neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring: a deliberate ploy to divert attention from an issue. I have also heard “neither fish nor fowl,” with no mention of the red herring. The red herring, of course, is a classic cliché meaning a false trail, used in countless thrillers and mysteries. Meanwhile, I believe many an American politician in the recent election demonstrated this cliché beautifully.The phrase itself is not recent, being first found in 1546:

She is nother fyshe nor fleshe, nor good red hearyng
A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, John Heyword

neither here nor there: of no consequence to the argument at hand. I have always rather disliked this phrase, as no matter how cogent your argument is, your opponent will very smugly say “that might  be, but it is neither here nor there.” Blech. And it has been around annoying many others for a long time: it was first found in Arthur Golding’s translation of The sermons of J. Calvin upon Deuteronomie, 1583.

nine days wonder: something that will lose its fresh appeal very quickly. This phrase’s history comes from a Shakespearean actor. William Kemp, who is thought to have played Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing (1599), became famous for dancing a Morris dance* from London to Norwich.  Although he won a bet for this, many doubted he actually covered the hundred (ish) miles in nine days, dancing or not. To prove his side of the story, Kemp wrote  ‘Kemps nine daies vvonder,’ which was published in 1600. This cliché itself is certainly not a nine days wonder!

and, of course,

nothing ventured, nothing gained: without a risk, nothing can be won. This was a favorite phrase of Benjamin Franklin. He didn’t create it, however, as it predates Franklin by three centuries. It can first be found in print in 1374 in Chaucer’s in The Reeve’s Tale:

John lies still for a short time, feeling sorry for himself.
“Alas,” he says, “this is a cruel joke; now I can see that I am the only fool here.
My colleague is getting compensation for his grievance; he has the miller’s daughter in his arms. He has taken a chance, and fulfilled his needs, while I lie like a sack of rubbish in my bed.
And when this joke is told one day, I shall be considered an ass, a weakling!
I will arise and take a chance, too, by my faith! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, or so men say.”

*don’t know what a Morris dance is? Neither did I. According to Wikipedia:

“Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers.”

 

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