Once in a blue moon, and other idioms; what do they really mean?

I’m fascinated by English idioms. Did you know that “sweating like a pig” isn’t referring to an animal but to “pig iron,” an iron ore, as it cools? This Smithsonian article discusses some other idioms, like “once in a blue moon,” but I’d like to know if YOU have the background scoop on any idioms not listed in the article: http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/science/2013/05/once-in-a-blue-moon-and-other-idioms-that-dont-make-scientific-sense/?utm_source=smithsoniantopic&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20130526-Weekender

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13 thoughts on “Once in a blue moon, and other idioms; what do they really mean?

  1. Judit

    Learning about idioms is such fun! Thanks for sharing these ideas. Soon we will need to explain a new crop of idioms; my grandson recently asked me what it meant when we said he sounded like a broken record!


    • You’re welcome, JC, and thanks for reminding me of that one. It’s an odd one, too, when you think about it. I’ve always thought of that as meaning that someone is repeating something over and over, but if a record (the vinyl kind) is really broken, you can’t play it at all. There must be some more background to that. Consider me nudged to check on it :)


    • Just did a quick check, and it looks like the saying should be “like a skipping record” b/c it refers to when the record is scratched and the needle stays in one groove, or when there’s debris that the needle keeps running into, playing the same section over and over again, like the record is skipping. At least that’s what I’ve got so far.


  2. I didn’t know that either; going to make a cuppa and check the other ones out too


    • And, Dallas, if any more come to mind while you’re reading, let me know. Actually, a cuppa sounds really good to me right now, too.


  3. It’s very odd I found your article today. My cat had a fight with another one today and when he got inside he started licking himself and I realized that the expression “licking the wounds” should have come from that. Thank you for sharing the link.


    • You’re right, Valeria. Even if it didn’t (and I don’t know), it should have. Hope your kitty is going to heal up ok.


    • Well, of course, I had to look it up. It seems that “licking his wounds” appears in Milton’s Paradise Lost and refers to Satan. Also there are apparently early Greek and Roman medical references to licking wounds, as the healing properties of saliva were well known back then.


  4. That was fun!
    I’m “as slow as molasses” when trying to think of more.


  5. Lovely post, Jennifer, thanks for the heads-up! (A basketball-originating term, I believe)


    • Thank you, Kate. I had to look for the “heads up” phrase, and you’re right about the sports connotation. I also found it linked to armies marching in a heads-up position. Here’s a link for more: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/heads-up.html.

      I’m really missing reading your wonderful posts b/c my time has been so limited (evidenced by the briefness of this post and the next), but I’m going back, soon I hope, to catch up.


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