an exercise in miscellany

Posts Tagged ‘Idiom’

Spun Out of Whole Cloth

In wild card, words & phrases on April 28, 2013 at 8:47 am
6a013487e6f7ad970c015435660b00970c-800wiThe meaning of the phrase “made out of whole cloth” appears to have begun to change in the United States in the first half of the 19th century. The The Oxford English Dictionary labels the falsehood sense “U.S. colloquial slang”, and provides a citation from 1843: “Isn’t this entire story… made out of whole cloth?” The change of meaning may have arisen from deceptive trade practices. Charles Earle Funk suggests that 19th-century tailors advertising whole cloth may really have been using patched cloth or cloth that was falsely stretched to appear to be full-width.  Alternatively, the modern figurative meaning of “whole cloth” may depend on a lie’s having sprung whole ex nihilo, having no connection with existing facts. All-newness distinguishes garments and lies made out of whole cloth. This is a positive characteristic for clothes, but not for the average tissue of lies and deception.
 “whole cloth”
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Parkinson’s Law

In technology & innovatons, wild card on March 2, 2013 at 7:46 am

doc literaly bound in red tapeParkinson’s law is the adage first articulated by Cyril Northcote Parkinson as part of the first sentence of a humorous essay published in The Economist in 1955:

Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

The current form of the law is not that which Parkinson refers to by name in the article. Rather, he assigns to the term a mathematical equation describing the rate at which bureaucracies expand over time. Much of the essay is dedicated to a summary of purportedly scientific observations supporting his law, such as the increase in the number of employees at the Colonial Office while Great Britain‘s overseas empire declined. He explains this growth by two forces: “An official wants to multiply subordinates, not rivals” and  “Officials make work for each other.” He notes in particular that the total of those employed inside a bureaucracy rose by 5-7% per year “irrespective of any variation in the amount of work (if any) to be done”.

via Parkinson’s Law

A Stopped Clock is Right Twice a Day

In words & phrases on October 3, 2011 at 11:22 am

A normally unreliable person or instrument can occasionally provide correct information, even if only by accident.

Alternative forms

 a broken clock is right twice a day

Wiktionary

Flogging a Dead Horse

In words & phrases on July 11, 2011 at 9:14 am

Flogging a dead horse (alternatively beating a dead horse in some parts of the Anglophone world) is an idiom that means a particular request or line of conversation is already foreclosed or otherwise resolved, and any attempt to continue it is futile; or that to continue in any endeavour (physical, mental, etc.) is a waste of time as the outcome is already decided.

via Flogging a dead horse

Selling Like Hot Cakes

In words & phrases on March 1, 2011 at 10:12 am

“Hot cakes cooked in bear grease or pork lard were popular from earliest times in American. First made of cornmeal, the griddle cakes or pancakes were of course best when served piping hot and were often sold at church benefits, fairs, and other functions. So popular were they that by the beginning of the 19th century ‘to sell like hot cakes’ was a familiar expression for anything that sold very quickly effortlessly, and in quantity.” From “Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins” by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997)

via Sell like hot cakes.

Let Bygones Be Bygones

In words & phrases on January 21, 2011 at 2:13 am

Here are a few different ways to say ‘Let bygones be bygones’: don’t  fret about something that happened in the past, let the past be the past and move on, forget the past and don’t hold a grudge.   In 1648, Sir Frances Nethersole used the ‘Let bygans be bygans’ form which is still current today. First cited in the United States in the Diary of Cotton Mather.  If people decide to let bygones be bygones, they decide to forget old problems or grievances they have with each other.

via Let bygones be bygones.