What do “the whole kit and caboodle,” “the whole shebang,” “the whole megillah,” “the whole enchilada,” “the whole nine yards,” “the whole box and dice,” and “the full Monty” have in common? They’re all expressions that mean “the entire quantity,” and they’re all examples of the breadth and depth of the English-speaking world’s vocabulary.
From the multitude of words and phrases in daily use, the author of this delightful exploration into what we say and why we say it zeroes in on those expressions and sayings and their variations that are funny, quirky, just plain folksy, or playfully dressed up in rhyme or alliteration. Some may have become clichés that, as it’s said with “tongue in cheek,” should be “avoided like the plague.” Others have been distorted, deemed politically incorrect, or shrouded in mystery and must bear some explanation.
Among the topics the author delves into are expressions that shouldn’t be taken literally (“dressed to kill” and “kick the bucket”), foreign expressions that crept into English (“carte blanche,” “carpe diem,” and “que sera, sera”), phrases borrowed from print ads and TV commercials (“where there’s life, there’s Bud” and “where the rubber meets the road”), animal images (“a barrel of monkeys” and “chasing your tail”), and food and drink (“cast your bread upon the water,” “chew the fat,” “bottom’s up!”, and “drunk as a lord”).
Here’s a book for everyone who delights in the mysteries of language and the perfect gift for all the “wordies” in your life.
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About the Author
Colin McNairn has enjoyed a career as a professor, a practicing lawyer, an administrative law judge, and a writer, all of which has served to stimulate his interest in the deft use of language. He is the author of books on governmental immunity, freedom of information, and privacy. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.
Table of Contents
1 Expressions Made Memorable 3
2 Don't take the Expression Literally 11
3 What Do You Mean By That Expression? 31
4 Coded Expressions 43
5 All Over the Map: The Geography of Expressions 53
6 The Players in Expressions: Getting to Know them Without a Program 61
7 The Evolution of Expressions 71
8 Metaphorically Speaking Through Sayings 95
9 The Style and Form of Sayings 109
10 Making Sense of sayings 109
11 The Origins and the Commercial Applications of Sayings 125
12 Things Go Better With Latin 137
13 Animal Images 159
14 Body Language 195
15 Food for thought 221
16 Drink as an Afterthought 237