Monthly Archives: September 2016

Fair and Square

I had the pleasure of having lunch with two lady friends today, and I was talking about the idiom blog (this one) that I write. I told them today I was going to write about “fair and square” — you know winning a game “fair and square” — so I asked them what they thought it meant.

One lady said the phrase meant “equal, so equality”; the other lady said “honesty”.

So, what does it mean? According to Webster’s New World College Dictionary  “fair and square” is defined as  “with justice and honesty”. Justice and honesty doesn’t sound anything like fair and square so how in the world did we come up with a phrase where we think everyone should know what we mean by it. (That is what idioms is all about anyway.)

When I think of fair, the first visual cue that enters my mind is going to a fair to see the side shows and the animals and ride the rides; then, I think of fair skies — the clear, blue skies with not a cloud in sight; then, I think of being fair (light in color) skinned. So far, these definitions have nothing to do with justice. I guess I could use fair and square to describe a person who is of light skin and is a “square” — you know, being rigidly conventional, a “square”. Now that is funny, because years ago when you were a “square” you were considered honest, traditional and loyal — words and phrases evolve.

Looking further into the word “fair”, it can also mean according to the rules, just and honest, and to treat both sides without personal biases, without deceptions. Justice. Ahhh, so fair can mean just and honest.

Once again, the first vision I have of the word “square” is the four right angles in making a square box. Then, comes my dear idioms — going back to square one, try putting a square in a circle, a square meal… but, fair and square doesn’t really enter my thought process unless if I just won something “fair and square”.

Square could mean (according to its use in the sentence) to make even, to adjust, to bring into alignment (here’s the equal thought the first lady had), and even a score among the many definitions. Then there is  clear, direct and straightforward. It’s coming closer to the meaning for “fair and square:  Searching further, “square” also means just, fair and honest. Hold on, that’s the same meaning as fair.

We have two words “fair” and “square” that both mean the same “just and honest”.

So, although “fair and square” is considered an idiom, in the grammar world it could also be called a tautology, “using more than one word to say the same thing, usually to emphasize a fact”. Think of a free gift. Gifts are free or else they are not gifts. Think of a fatal murder. A murder is fatal.

Next time I hear that a game was won, an item was gotten, a gift received “fair and square” I will know it was received with more than honesty. It was with honesty and justice. It was “fair and square”.

Until Tuesday…have a great day…



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Don’t Upset my Applecart

“I can’t believe it, after all the work it took me to finish the project on time, he has changed his mind. Now I have to redo everything. He has upset my applecart!”


No, I do not have an applecart. In fact, I do not know anyone who has an applecart these days. Maybe I could find one as a store display to tantalize someone to buy an apple or two, but what does upsetting an applecart have to do with having to start over?

When my applecart is upset, my plans are spoiled. Here I was, finished with the project that was expected of me, then he changed his mind and now I have to redo the entire project. I was planning on spending the evening with my friends and going out for a bite to eat. Now, I can’t.

He didn’t burst my bubble because my plans were more than an idea or what I thought was an idea, he wasn’t a killjoy because he didn’t know about my plans and a killjoy is one who knows about the plans someone else has and wants to ruin them, and he wasn’t a party pooper — you know the Debbie Downer of the group — because this was not a social affair where someone is showing or acting doomy and gloomy, this was a project that needed to be completed on time.

But, he ruined my plans for the evening. He didn’t know it until that moment, but he did. I was disappointed that I could not go.

Let’s go back a few thousand years — the Romans used a derivative of this idiom, saying, “I am undone. I have upset my cart.” When the cart was upset, spilled over, ruined through clumsiness or other tactics, that could have been the end of his livelihood for the day, week, month, season. He was undone. His work displayed on the cart was ruined. That was heavy duty stuff back then — could you imagine a week or month’s profits gone in a turn of a cart!

Now, fast forward to a couple of hundred years ago when farmers used carts to load up their farm produce to take to market. Along the way (usually by foot or with the aid of an animal), the cart is upset, turns over, and he has a mess to clean up. And more than likely his day has been ruined by the cart being upset, turned over.

Today, nearly anything can upset my applecart — the computer not running correctly, the car won’t start, someone has changed or ruined his plans that has upset my applecart, that has inadvertently ruined my plan. So, when you hear someone’s applecart has been upset, it’s not a physical applecart, it is a plan, it is day, it is a situation that has ruined or changed  the plans. And once I get to share a bite of food with my friends, I know they will not burst my bubble, be a killjoy or a party pooper because they will want to cheer me up after finding out that my applecart was upset.

Until Friday, have a good one…


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Tan Your Hide

“I’m going to tan your hide if you don’t…”

“You’re going to what — tan my what — I don’t have a hide… What in the world are you talking about?”

Taking the common literal meaning of the words “tan your hide” it should mean brown a hide, but what in the world is a hide? I know hide means to conceal, and there is a hide of an animal, but I am no animal — or maybe I am. We are homo sapiens, and through the years we were set apart from the animal kingdom because we can reason. Better yet, looking at the word “homo sapiens” it means wise man or defining it better — it comes from 18th century Latin and “homo” means earthly being, human, or man (both genders) and “sapiens” mean wise, so we homo sapiens are wise humans. So why in the world do we say one thing and mean another? Getting back to “tan your hide”…



Long ago and probably in some parts of the world today, we tanned hides. That is after killing an animal (the other kind, like a buffalo or deer), skinning it, gutting it, and removing the hair from the skin with a sort of acidic compound, you tanned the skin — you beat the skin — to make a piece of leather for a jacket, pants, outer layer of a house (think of the American Indian’s teepee tent). Today, you can also tan hides, but mostly they are done by those “Mother Earth” typ20160923_174259es. And then there is the taxidermist, who can skin the animal while not removing the guts, and then mount the animal for the hunter to display.


Believe me, on the whole, we do not kill and skin the homo sapiens when we “tan the hide” but we do spank, beat, use a switch or a belt20160923_180157 of a person’s bottom. Shoot, when I went to school, I remember the Dean of Boys had a paddle in his office, and I knew many a boy who had that paddle used on his be-hind! Is it wrong or illegal to “tan a hide” — well, according to law guides, discipline in the home is not wrong as 20160923_174807long as it is not abuse. In schools, that’s another matter. There are 31 states where it is illegal to use corporal punishment on a student, and 19 states where it is okay — most of those states are in the Southern portion of our country, but Indiana and Wyoming and Texas are included.

So, why don’t we just say “I’m going to give your a spanking…a whupping” instead of “tan your hide” which has a hidden meaning. Well, we’re Americans, and we have a bunch of those idioms we use in our every day language. And sometimes what we say is not exactly what we mean. Sometimes, when we say, “tan your hide” it is used as a wake-up call for someone to straighten up. It’s like an idle threat, but not exactly because this is used as a call for fear to do the “right” thing or there will be severe consequences. When someone says they are going to “spank” someone, it is usually carried out immediately. But when we say “I’m going to tan your hide if I ever catch your smoking…drinking alcohol…driving recklessly…” it means you better not, or there will be consequences.

True, there are always exceptions to the rules, but usually people do not skin another human’s skin (unless if you are Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lamb) or they do not inflict abuse while paddling their child’s be-hind or school disciplinarians do not harm someone to leave a mark —- I hope, I hope, I hope.

And in between time, if you ever hear someone is going “To Tan your Hide” listen because the next time there may be a switch involved.




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Call His Bluff

When I think of the word “bluff” I think of the landscape– you know, the high, steep cliff. The bluff.



And then, when I hear that someone has called his bluff, I know there has to be a hand of cards in there somewhere. Usually, I think of poker, and the really good poker players can call a bluff with a straight face, not really having a good hand to play — rather, misleading the other players to think the hand is worth betting on. Ahhh….

To mislead someone — we do it all the time, every day, in every way. Advertisements do it to sell a product. Currently, politicians are doing it to entice people to vote for them. Parents do it when they tell their children about “the tooth fairy” or “Santa Clause” or the “Easter Bunny”. Traditions or bluffs? Students do it every day in school, trying to bluff the teacher into believing one reason instead of admitting the truth why the paper was late, why they were talking in class, why. why. why… And teachers call the student’s bluff all the time. They are onto the students with their bluffs.

It’s not a lie nor a fib — usually, the bluff, the misleading statement, doesn’t really hurt someone. It is just presented in such a way that we may think it is real when it is not. It’s a bluff.

The lie can lead to hurting someone. It is outright deceiving another person for a gain of some sort — monetarily, emotionally, physically. That is when people get mad, when they know they have been lied to. And that brings up the entire “trust” idea. When a person is lied to, trust breaks down. Now, that is completely different from a fib.

I may tell a little white lie — a fib, where it does not hurt anyone, or maybe I may fib to protect someone or some idea. I may tell a fib to not let someone know something that has been told to me in confidence and then someone else is trying to pry the information from me. I do fib when it’s no one’s business to know something or other. I don’t hurt them, I just don’t tell them the truth when information is private and others want to know my or other people’s business.

Lie — I personally try not to because it is much more serious. A willful intent to deceive. And I want people to trust me.

That brings me back to bluff. Actually, when someone bluffs me, or I see someone calling his bluff, I smile. It takes skill to bluff someone without having any sort of deception taking place. Unexpected jokes are bluffs. Pleading to be taken out to eat, saying there is no food in the house is a bluff because there is usually some food in the house. Misleading — yes, hurtful, no. Skill, yes, it takes skill to call his bluff, to bluff someone, to maintain that straight face, that pleading look, that frightened pose.

I am not good at bluffing, or calling a bluff. My mind is too logical, too practical, so  I return to my landscape, to my logic, and I see the steep cliff when I see the word “bluff”. But I do know when I have been bluffed — after awhile and I have time to think it through. That’s just the way I am. Logical. Plagued with reason.

I’ll be back on Friday. Do you have any idiom, phrase or cliche that you want me to explore with my writing? Let me know.


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Taken To the Cleaners

I had this three-quarters length coat that I absolutely loved. Its’ material was boiled wool, and it really needed a good cleaning, so I took it to the cleaners. I asked if the coat should be dry cleaned, and the girl said, “Yes, we can do that.” Trustingly, I handed my favorite coat over to the girl and waited the two days until it was ready. I looked at the cleaned coat under plastic wrap, paid the bill and took it home. It looked good to me.

A few weeks later, I was going to wear my newly cleaned coat that I took to the cleaners, removed it from the plastic wrap, and it looked a bit short. My three-quarters length coat turned into a jacket. The sleeves were okay, the width was okay, it was just the length that shortened. I couldn’t believe it. I went back to the dry cleaners, but they were gone, for what I thought was the day.

Since there was nothing that could be done about getting the length of my coat back, and it was more of a complaint about their knowledge and practices, I did not hurry back, but did go back to the dry cleaners more than once, and each time they were closed. Then, one day, the sign was on the door — “Building for Lease”. I went to the cleaners to be taken to the cleaners!

The dry cleaning establishment “cleaned me out” of my original coat and the money I paid for it to be cleaned. Small experience, huge lesson.

Remember Bernie Madoff — he may have been a fraudster, but he definitely took many, many people to the cleaners — relieved them of their money, for sure. But, he’s not the only one. There are many people and businesses today that want to relieve others of their hard earned cash — case in point, the CEO  of a drug company that upped the price of the common drug 400% because he could. People knew they were taken to the cleaners from this drug company and they complained. Enough so that the government got involved, and I believe to date, the drug company is paying a very nice fee to attorneys to keep the head of the drug company out of prison . When people are not careful, they will be taken to the cleaners. It’s simply an ongoing battle, because someone always wants your money.

Another great example is the scams going on throughout our world. When a person falls for the scam, they are usually taken to the cleaners. Recently, I was one who initially fell for the scam, then stopped. It was the one where someone got into my email and said they were Microsoft and they needed to clean my computer, it was infected. I talked to the person on the phone and then, the person wanted around $400 to clean my computer. Shoot, I didn’t pay that much more for the machine, and thought I could buy a new one first. I told the person I would get back with him, took his number, then called my nephew, who works in the computer industry. I had been had as soon as I talked to the other person on line. I was infected all right, from the scammer — thank you so much, scammer! Needless to say, I contacted Microsoft, then the FBI to report the abuse. Then, I took my computer to Staples, and they cleaned it out for me, and I got super, guaranteed anti-virus ware. It cost me about $400, but the original scammer did not get that money — I was taken to the cleaners but who thought was going to get the money, did not. And I learned.

I don’t gamble a lot, but when I go to the casinos, I know that I am always taken to the cleaners.

But there is more


031205-N-2468S-002 Catania, Sicily (Dec. 5, 2003) — Members of U.S. Armed Forces WomenÕs Volleyball team blocks an Italian player from scoring during the 3rd Military World Games held in Catania, Sicily. The Military World Games consists of 86 participating countries and were designed to promote “Peace through Sports.Ó U.S Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Terry Spain. (RELEASED).


When one team beats another by a wide margin, the other team can say they were “taken to the cleaners”. Beaten bad. Every once in awhile, we will see those type of scores from football teams — you know, the 21-0 score or the 42-6 score. Someone was really taken to the cleaners with those scores.

Here, in America, we are taken to the cleaners — a lot — if our guard is down. I will go back to a cleaners, but I bet I will never be taken to the cleaners by a cleaner again. And between time — it’s checking everything twice so I am not taken to the cleaners on prices and services. Services are another story. Slowly, I am learning who are the honest businesses in my new area, but before that, when I first moved to Florida — I was taken to the cleaners over and over — because I did not know anyone to know who was honest. Now, I do, and I doubt if I will get taken to the cleaners as much. It’s all in the game!

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It’s All in a Day’s Work

When I think of this idiom/phrase, I think about everything I do in a day — clean the house, cook, run errands, write, etc., etc., etc., and this phrase could mean that. Or… it could mean more than that.

I’ve met people whose job it is to go inside a prison and break up fights, or a soldier who puts him/herself in harm’s way, or a roofer or iron worker who works 90 stories in the air, or the Bering Sea fisherman who braves the storm to bring in the catch of the day. Those occupations are seen as all in a day’s work, but are they? And to whom? When you mix the ordinary (the cooking and cleaning) with the unordinary (the soldier, roofer or fisherman) the phrase takes on an altogether different meaning to the different people..

For instance, at some point, everyone has problems with their plumbing, specifically their sewer system. It’s easy, the homeowner calls the sewer service and they come to access. The repairman needs to get into the sewer line (how gross!) and he wades through the stink in his hip boots to find the core of the problem. That repairman understands that his wading is part of his day’s work, it’s all in a day’s work, and he states the phrase as a matter of fact. He then explains his work to someone he as just met, and knowing the other person will think it is gross, he may say the phrase, “It’s all in a day’s work” with irony or sarcasm. This garners a different connotation.

If he were to use the phrase ironically, he is aiming for the opposite effect, making the listener think he does not like the work he does and he thinks it gross. Usually, this is done so one does not have to explain why anyone would want to have a dangerous or dirty job and you know how other people feel about it. When we speak ironically, it’s in how we project the voice — such as, oh, yeah! sure! — hey, what can I say, it’s all in a day’s work! Irony is great as an end all to a conversation or explanation. What can the other person come back with if they think they know the speaker understands the situation?

Sarcasm is different, but it can also be used when using irony, but this time it is used to mock someone or a situation or to show contempt. This would be when the sewer man knows no one else is going to do the dirty work and he’s fed up with being treated as a second-class citizen for doing the job. It’s like saying, let’s see you do it. When we speak sarcastically, the voice projects different again, accusingly — such as, hump, yeah, it’s all in a day’s work. It’s a bitter voice, it’s sarcasm. The entire point of sarcasm is to hurt or to cut to the core of that person or situation.

(On another note, I am back. This blog will continue each Tuesday and Friday — if you want to know about an idiom, cliche, or phrase, or simply a word — how to use it, where it comes from, anything….just let me know, and I will include it in my writing.)



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