Archive for the ‘Words and Phrases’ Category

Here is another sign. This one was on a locked gate to the tennis court. The mayor must be busy keeping track of all the keys and safety chains for Leeman Field.



Read Full Post »

Line drawing of Disraeli


There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. 
Benjamin Disraeli


Chances are, he’s probably right . . .

Read Full Post »

Growing up in Maine, I often heard the expression “dead as a doornail.”

I never thought much about it, figuring it was an old Yankee way of emphasizing a lack of life in a person, place or thing. It sort of made sense – what could be more “dead” than a nail? But just about anything could fit the “dead as” category. How about “dead as a doorstop”? Why a doornail?

I came across one possible reason “dead as a doornail” made sense and at the same time learned the expression was older than I imagined. From The Phrase Finder – 


As dead as a door-nail


Dead – devoid of life (when applied to people, plants or animals). Finished with – unusable (when applied to inanimate objects).


This is old – at least 14th century. There’s a reference to it in print in 1350:

“For but ich haue bote of mi bale I am ded as dorenail.”

Shakespeare used it in King Henry VI, 1590:


Brave thee! ay, by the best blood that ever was
broached, and beard thee too. Look on me well: I
have eat no meat these five days; yet, come thou and
thy five men, and if I do not leave you all as dead
as a doornail, I pray God I may never eat grass more.

As ‘X’ as ‘Y’ similes refer to some property and then give an example of something well-known as exhibiting that property, e.g. ‘as white as snow’. Why door-nails are cited as a particular example of deadness isn’t clear. Door-nails are the large-headed studs that were used in earlier times for strength and more recently as decoration. The practice was to hammer the nail through and then bend over the protruding end to secure it. This process, similar to riveting, was called clenching. This may be the source of the ‘deadness’, as such a nail would be unusable afterwards.


Read Full Post »




  1. (computing slang) A derivative work consisting of two pieces of (generally digital) media conjoined together, such as a video clip with a different soundtrack applied for humorous effect, or a digital map overlaid with user-supplied data.

And I though mashup was what you did with the ‘taters you eat with meatloaf and gravy . . .

Read Full Post »

incongruence (plural incongruences)

  1. a want of congruence; incongruity.
  2. out of place, absurd

I saw one of those big four wheel drive pick up trucks the other day. It had a skull and cross bones on the tailgate and the name of a construction company painted on the doors. The license plate read “FUZZY1” which seemed out of place, absurd.

Read Full Post »

I subscribe to  “A Phrase A Week” and find it fascinating.  Just click here if you want to try it out yourself. I have never received any spam or junk mail through this site.

Make no bones about


To state a fact in a way that allows no doubt. To have no objection to.


This is another of those ancient phrases that we accept with our mother’s milk as an idiom but which seem quite strange when we later give it some thought. When we are trying to convey that we acknowledge or have no objection to something, why bring bones into it?

It has been suggested that the bones were dice, which were previously made from bone and are still called bones in gambling circles. That explanation doesn’t stand up to scrutiny – ‘to make no dice about it’ makes little sense. Also, in a 1542 translation of Erasmus’s Paraphrase of Luke he discussed the command given to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac and wrote that ‘he made no bones about it but went to offer up his son.’ Erasmus wasn’t noted for his visits to the gaming tables and would hardly have used betting terminology to discuss a biblical text. (more…)

Read Full Post »