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Cliche Sunday

Ok, it’s Monday. But we had company yesterday. I spent the morning cleaning and getting ready, the afternoon recovering (and lunging the horses), and the evening with company. So I guess we have Cliche Monday ūüôā

And on that note, I thought we would do food clichés this week (since food was the base reason for me not getting it done).

a dish fit for the gods: a sumptuous offering. Another cliché from Shakespeare:
But, alas,
Caesar must bleed for it! And, gentle friends,
Let’s kill him boldly, but not wrathfully;
Let’s carve him as a dish fit for the gods…
Brutus,  Julius Caesar, 1601
Although, frankly, that is more likely to put me off food than me make hungry!

an apple a day keeps the doctor away: literally! This is an old claim, and the first written version can be found from 1866:

A Pembrokeshire proverb. Eat an apple on going to bed, And you’ll keep the doctor from earning his bread
                                              February 1866 edition of Notes and Queries

Apples have long ¬†been thought to have marvelous health properties: “They contain Vitamin C, which aids the immune system, and phenols, which reduce cholesterol. They also reduce tooth decay by cleaning one’s teeth and killing off bacteria. It has also been suggested by Cornell University researchers that the quercetin found in apples protects brain cells against neuro-degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease.”* Sadly, however, any round fruit was once called an apple, casting the actual “apple” into doubt. ¬†Any fruit was likely to make the diet healthier–and still is.

bread always falls buttered side down: an example of Murphy’s law. And an example of pessimism, in that the worst will always happen. ¬†This phrase predates Murphy by about 100 years, proving that pessimists have been around even longer.

I never had a slice of bread,
Particularly large and wide,
That did not fall upon the floor,
And always on the buttered side!
The Knickerbocker; or, New York Monthly Magazine 1835

full of piss and vinegar: rowdy and boisterous, full of fire and snap. John Steinbeck ¬†used the phrase in two separate books, In Dubious Battle and Grapes of Wrath, making it even more popular. It was also used by several other of his contemporaries,including Joyce, ¬†which makes sense since as in the ’20s vinegar was used to mean vitality and energy. Originally the phrase was not as positive, since vinegar was the common name for piss, and associated with sourness.
They are pestilent fellowes, they speake nothing but bodkins, and pisse vinegar
Return from Parnassas, 1602

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Cliche Sunday

Ok, let’s face it: at this time of year a large part of our focus is on food. We have Thanksgiving, which is the starting point of our obsession; then there are office potlucks and holiday parties with our friends, culminating in the celebration of our particular holiday with our family. But wait, its not over yet, then there are the New Year’s parties! So I thought it might be appropriate to do food cliches today ūüôā

no spring chicken: something no one wants to be called, this cliche means that one is past their prime. This one comes from farming, specifically New England farmers. They realized that a chick born in the spring brought much better prices than ones that had overwintered. But some farmers tried to slip the older chickens into the “spring” catagory, leading customers to complain that it was “no spring chicken.”* This phrase grew to include anything–including people– that was no longer in its tender years.

spill the beans: to reveal a secret. Oddly, this one has nothing to do with food, in the sense that we don’t eat the beans at any point. It comes from Greece, when they used beans as a voting method in councils. Each member would be given a white bean and a black bean, and would discreetly drop their yea or nay bean into a vessel. The actual count would be done by an official, but sometimes a voter would accidently knock over the jar–thus spilling the beans and revealing the way the vote was leaning.

you don’t know beans: to have a lack of common sense or knowledge. I love this one: it is based on an old riddle used at many country stores once upon a time. The question is–how many blue beans does it take to get seven white beans? It takes seven, for if you peel the blue beans you will end up with white. If you didn’t know that out in the country, you had a definite lack of common knowledge. As a farmer ( I farmed with my Dad for 15 or more years), I guess I must have no common sense because it didn’t occur to me that one could peel the beans!

sandwich: perhaps not an actual cliche, but an interesting history of one of our favorite foods. There was once an Earl of Sandwich (no, really) in 1748 who loved to gamble. As he didn’t have time for formal meals in between his games, he ordered his servants to prepare him a slice of beef between two pieces of bread: and a world over favorite was born!

bring home the bacon: to bring home a salary or money to pay the bills. While many people probably thinks this means the ability to bring home money to buy the bacon (and there was an American commercial in the 80s–70s?–that used that premise); that is actually not the truth. It was based on the the prize money from fairs when one managed to catch the greased pig. As they had to catch the dang pig, the resultant $ brought home was “bringing home the bacon.”

Ok, that’s enough. I’m going to get some food!

*words, phrases, or sayings



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Cliches Sunday


Tis a rainy day out there, and our afternoon was interrupted by tree coming down on the Cover-it we call a hay barn. I pretty much didn’t do anything–other than clean up the tree remnants and fix the horse line that came down in the blinding rain–at all today. Except TV. I did watch a lot of TV. And now I realize that perhaps I should have been spending my day writing. Ah well.

What shall we do our last-minute clich√©s on today? As days like today always make me rather munchy, I think we could do food clich√©s. Let’s give it a whirl. WIne and food cliches–this can only end with me eating more ūüėČ

keep the pot boiling: to provide a livelihood. The ancients said they must keep the pot boiling, which translated to having something edible within the pot to eat. Therefore they must supply meat or vegetable to be boiled in said pot. This also gave rise to¬†the phrase “to go to pot,” which meant that something was cut up and prepared, thus going to pot was to disintegrate. I know some people might have thought “to go to pot” was an biased expression of what happens to those who tend to indulge in pot (otherwise known as marijuana). ¬†The phrase, however, is much older than we might have thought.

a fig for your opinion/not worth a fig: expressions of contempt. These phrases may go back as far as ancient Greece, a region where figs were so plentiful as to have almost no value. There is another theory, that it may have come from early Italy instead, where they had a gesture of derision called “the fig.” This gesture is still used today, involving fingers and a thumb. I will let your imagination play with that one.

to drag a red herring across a trail: to obscure the truth. Herring that has been smoked turns a red color from the process. The intention, of course, is that this herring be eaten. However, dog trainers swiftly realized the pungent scent of a smoked herring was an excellent tool to train dogs to hunt a scent. Later, criminals realized that the same scent could be quite effective in masking their own scents from police hounds tracking them. These days it¬†is often used to describe a plot stratagem to conceal an author’s real intent. And of course we all feel very proud when we detect and ¬†see past that “red herring.”

A bad egg: used figuratively to describe a literally bad person. One can never tell upon first sight if the egg is bad;¬†like a human, further insight must be used. (although cracking people open is not advised) ¬†Shakespeare used ‘egg’ to describe a young person in MacBeth¬†; the scene where the murderers slay the son of MacDuff:
¬† ¬†“What you egg! Young fry of treachery!”
Oddly, Shakespeare’s phrase, for once, did not take. The term ‘bad egg’ did not gain popularity until mid-eighteenth century. The converse, “he’s a good egg,” ¬†came into usage in the early nineteenth century and most likely developed from British slang.

cut the mustard: to meet expectations. There seem to be a slew of differing opinions of how this particular phrase came into being. The best one seems to be:
¬†“There has been an association between the heat and piquancy of mustard and the zest and energy of people’s behaviour. This dates back to at least 1672, when the term ‘as keen as mustard’ is first recorded. ‘Up to mustard’ or just ‘mustard’ means up to standard in the same way as ‘up to snuff’. ‘Cutting’ has also long been used to mean ‘exhibiting’, as in the phrase ‘cutting a fine figure’. Unless some actual evidence is found for the other proposed explanations, the derivation of ‘cutting the mustard’ as an alternative way of saying ‘exhibiting one’s high standards’ is by far the most likely.”*

jam tomorrow: to have something pleasant to look forward to–which is unlikely to materialize. Because we all love jam, right? This phrase came from a favorite children’s story–Alice Through the Looking Glass, and What She Found There. The queen promises jam tomorrow to Alice, and explains that it is always jam tomorrow-or jam yesterday-but never jam today. An earlier British meaning of “jam” was ¬†to mean anything exceptionally good. Carroll, of course, would have known that meaning and played upon it. The phrase “jam tomorrow” became immediately popular and stayed in the slang lexicon for quite some time.

‘I’m sure I’ll take you with pleasure!’ the Queen said. ‘Twopence a week, and jam every other day.’
Alice couldn’t help laughing, as she said, ‘I don’t want you to hire ME – and I don’t care for jam.’
‘It’s very good jam,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I don’t want any TO-DAY, at any rate.’
‘You couldn’t have it if you DID want it,’ the Queen said. ‘The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday – but never jam to-day.’
‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.
‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’
‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’
–Alice in Wonderland



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