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The Cat's Pyjamas

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CathyCat
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Part of the furniture

Book To bark up the wrong tree

Post by CathyCat on Sun 11 Dec 2016 - 19:05

TO BARK UP THE WRONG TREE

To be totally off the mark, to waste energy following the wrong course of action, or to have one's attention diverted off the subject in hand.  The phrase dates back to the 1800s and neatly puns a dog's bark with tree bark.

Its origins stem from the American sport of raccoon hunting.  The hounds of the hunting pack are trained to mark the tree in which the raccoon they are pursuing takes shelter, and then to howl at its base until their master arrives to shoot the animal.  The hounds may bark up at the wrong tree, however, if the raccoon has managed to evade them.

The expression first became popular in the early nineteenth century, appearing in the works of James Hall (1793-1868), Davy Cockett (1786-1836) - himself a great raccoon hunter - and Albert Pike (1809-91).

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CathyCat
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Book To kiss the Blarney Stone

Post by CathyCat on Mon 12 Dec 2016 - 18:26

TO KISS THE BLARNEY STONE

A popular term used of someone who speaks in persuasive or seductive terms; the verb 'to blarney' meaning to employ persuasive flattery, and the noun 'blarney' for 'flattering talk' have the same derivation.

The provenance for this expression can be found, literally, at Blarney Castle, near Cork, in south-west Ireland.  Set high in the south wall of the castle is an almost inaccessible triangular stone bearing the inscription, Cormac McCarthy fortis me fieri fecit.

The tradition of kissing this Blarney Stone to improve one's eloquence and persuasive abilities - which can only be done by hanging, with one's feet securely held, head-down from the castle's battlements - dates from the eighteenth century.


The story behind the Blarney Stone's legacy is that in 1602, McCarthy, Lord of Blarney, was defending the castle against the English, who were fighting to force him to surrender the fortress and transfer his allegiance to the English crown.

However, McCarthy smooth-talked the British emissary, Sir George Carew (1565-1612), with flattery and sweet promises and stood his ground, much to the fury of Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603).

It is said that the Queen herself coined the term 'blarney' to describe the worthlessness of McCarthy's promises.



I just thought I'd add this little snippet in - just as a precaution for anyone planning to kiss the Blarney Stone at any future date:

(from the Daily Mail - June 2009)

Blarney Stone 'most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world'

The Blarney Stone in Ireland has been named as the most  'unhygienic' tourist  attraction in the world.

It beat off opposition from a wall plastered with thousands of  pieces of discarded chewing gum in the US to take first place in the bizarre awards ceremony.

Organisers said the Blarney Stone, kissed by up to 400,000 people a year, rates as the most germ-filled of attractions  -  although it admitted it had no scientific evidence to back its case.


A tourist kissing the Blarney stone at Blarney Castle in Ireland

Local legend has it that visitors who bend over backwards to kiss the stone built into Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland, are rewarded with the 'gift of the gab'.

But internet travel website TripAdvisor.com believes those who kiss the stone are likely to end up with something else other than fluent speech as it is so germ ridden.

A wall outside a theatre in Seattle, Washington, was placed runner-up in the competition.

Since 1990, tens of thousands of people have stuck their unwanted chewing gum to the wall turning it into a tourist attraction.

The disgusting act began with people waiting in line to visit the theatre. The wall has been scrapped clean twice since 1990 but is still covered with gum.

Some visitors have even moulded shapes and faces out of their gum.


A woman kisses the tomb of British 19th century author Oscar Wilde iin Paris

Oscar Wilde's tomb in Paris is the third dirtiest attraction having been covered with lipstick prints.

St Marks Square in Venice, Italy, is fourth due to the thousands of hungry pigeons who descend on the place leaving behind their waste.

The handprints and footprints of stars outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood makes the top five.

According to Tripadvisor the historical Hollywood landmark is covered with grime from the hands of countless visitors who see if their hands and feet match those of the stars.
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CathyCat
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Book A feather in one's cap

Post by CathyCat on Tue 13 Dec 2016 - 13:11

A FEATHER IN ONE'S CAP

A personal achievement or honour to be proud of.  The feather is a proud and visible emblem of victory and the gesture of putting a feather in your hat is almost universal in one form or another.

There is an ancient custom, widespread in Asia, among Native Americans and throughout Europe, of adding a feather to one's headgear to mark each enemy killed.   Even today, a sportsman who kills his first woodcock puts a feather from the bird in his hat.

At one time in Hungary, the only people who could wear feathers were those who had killed Turks.
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CathyCat
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Part of the furniture

Book To come a cropper

Post by CathyCat on Fri 16 Dec 2016 - 18:44

TO COME A CROPPER

To fall heavily, head over heels, or to fail ignominiously.

The origin probably lies in the old term for the hindquarters of a horse, the croup or crupper.  If you fell from a horse in the eighteenth century, you were said to have fallen neck and crop, which came to be used colloquially to mean headlong or head over heels.  So to fall to the ground neck and crop is to 'come a cropper'.

We now use the phrase to mean 'to get into trouble' or 'to fail', rather than literally 'to fall'.

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CathyCat
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Book Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by CathyCat on Sat 17 Dec 2016 - 16:50

ALL TARRED WITH THE SAME BRUSH

Everyone in the group shares the same failings; they're all sheep of the same flock.  This old saying alludes to the methods used by farmers to mark their sheep.  A brush dipped in tar was applied to the wool as a form of branding.

The phrase is now often used when people feel they have been lumped in with others and judged unfairly as a result.
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CathyCat
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Book To beat about the bush

Post by CathyCat on Sun 18 Dec 2016 - 18:22

TO BEAT ABOUT THE BUSH

To approach a matter indirectly or in a roundabout way.

The expression has evolved from early hunting methods for catching birds.  One team of hunters would approach the birds hiding in the undergrowth from the sides, so as to drive them into the path of another team, who would catch them with nets as they took off.

This task of literally beating the bushes in which the birds take shelter is still an important part of pheasant shooting today.



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CathyCat
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Book By a long chalk

Post by CathyCat on Mon 19 Dec 2016 - 11:36

BY A LONG CHALK

This is a sporting expression and means to win easily, far ahead of the competition.

Before lead pencils became common, merit marks or scores used to be made with chalk:  In a game of skittles or darts, for example, individual points were referred to as a 'chalk'; a long chalk, therefore, is a high score.
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CathyCat
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Book To blow the gaff

Post by CathyCat on Tue 20 Dec 2016 - 15:24

TO BLOW THE GAFF

A slang phrase meaning to reveal a secret, which may derive from the French gaffe, a blunder, but is more likely to come from 'gab', the informal English word for 'speech', which in turn derives from 'gob' meaning 'mouth' or 'beak' (the expression 'gift of the gab' comes from the same source).

Current in the eighteenth century was the slang expression 'to blow the gab', meaning to betray a secret.

'Gaff' is also archaic English slang for someone's home, as in:  'Let's go round to his gaff.'

A more colourful derivation may be that 'to blow the gaff' refers to the exposure of a concealed device, known as a gaff, used to cheat at cards.  This was a small hook set in a ring worn on the finger, which was used by the crooked player to grip the cards.


Hmm ... not mentioned in the book - but I'm inclined to think this expression has more to do with the nautical term, 'gaff', as in: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaff_rig

- especially the mention of 'blowing' the gaff .....
But hey, I didn't write the book ... maybe I should do an alternative to it Idea (?)  Might be fun. Cool
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CathyCat
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Book Sling your hook

Post by CathyCat on Wed 21 Dec 2016 - 15:49

SLING YOUR HOOK!

A somewhat forceful command urging a person to leave; a way, without resorting to foul language, of asking someone to go away.

The expression is probably of nautical origin and alludes to the anchor, or 'hood', which must be secured in its sling at the bow before the ship can cast off.

Other forms of the expression - 'Hook it!' and 'Take your hook!' - are also used, perhaps to give emphasis to one's wish that a person should leave and set about their business.

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CathyCat
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Book Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by CathyCat on Fri 23 Dec 2016 - 3:26

TO BE ON SKID ROW

An American expression applied to the part of town frequented by vagrants, hobos, alcoholics and down-and-outs.  Hence, if you are 'on the skids', it means that you are on your way to that rather grimy quarter of the city, about to skid off the path of virtue and respectability.

The expression probably comes from the early days of the Seattle timber industry.  A 'skid row' was a row of logs down which other felled timber was slid or skidded.  Tacoma, near Seattle, became prosperous with the growth of the timber industry, and in due course there were plentiful supplies of liquor and brothels in the town, close at hand for lumberjacks working the skid row.
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CathyCat
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Book Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by CathyCat on Fri 23 Dec 2016 - 20:24

CHARLIE'S DEAD

A slang euphemism used to indicate that a woman's petticoat is showing below the hem of her skirt.  The phrase was a useful way for ladies to convey to one another that their petticoats were hanging low, without having to state something so indelicate in front of any men present.

The expression has two possible sources, both involving kings.  One is the execution of Charles 1 (1600-49) on 30 January 1649, at which the women in attendance are said to have dipped their petticoats in his blood as a way of honouring him.

The other possibility is that it refers to the habit of flirtatious female fans of the dashing Charles II (1630-85):  they would flash the hems of their petticoats to show how much they admired him.


    Current date/time is Tue 22 May 2018 - 14:28