Monthly Archives: October 2016

Well, for Pete’s Sake!

“Well, for Pete’s Sake, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”

“Heavens to Betsy, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”

“Heavens to Murgatroyd, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”

“For pity’s sake, I haven’t seen you in years. How are you?”

All of the above idioms/phrases mean the same — a mild form of surprise. Pete can also be annoyed, “For Pete’s sake, will you put that phone down during dinner.” Betsy is never annoyed, nor is Murgatroyd, and pity, well, pity can be a bit annoying but not as bad as Pete. For instance, for pity’s sake may be used when asking to put the phone down, but the tone of voice is not quite as strong as when using Pete. Pity’s sake is used mostly with a request that should be understood, like “For pity’s sake, come in from the cold.” We should know when to come out of the cold, but today people do not understand that it is bad manners to text while eating, so the phrase, Pete’s sake, is a bit more derogatory.

I searched and searched to find where Pete, Betsy and Murgatroyd came from but I never found a definitive answer. The best I came up with for Pete was that it is a euphemistic replacement for God, so instead of saying “For God’s sake”, we can say “For Pete’s sake”. (A euphemism is replacing a word that may not be polite to say or may be considered harsh with another word — for instance, it’s VERY impolite to refer to someone who has just died as “kicked the bucket” when we could simply say “died” or “passed on”.)


Betsy and Murgatroyd are different. Actually, they are not people at all. Betsy was first found in a U.S. journal in 1857, and Murgatroyd was a phrase that was made popular when Snagglepuss would use it in Hanna Barbera’s the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s.



“For the Love of Pete” is another mild form of surprise or annoyance, and it is again an euphemism.

Then there is “For Goodness Sake” (another euphemism), and this time this phrase is used when there is frustration or annoyed. “For goodness sake, will you please get off the phone, you’ve been talking now for three hours.” Do you hear the frustration in that command?

If “For Goodness Sake” is frustration, then “For Crying Out Loud” is really annoyed. “For Crying Out Loud, can’t you even boil water?” Woo-hoo, someone is mad.

Well, Heavens to Betsy, I’ve just looked at my watch and I realized it is after 8 p.m. No wonder I am hungry. Have a great weekend. I am going to fix myself dinner.




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You’ve Flipped Your Lid

Since flip means to turn over and lid means a movable cover, how in the world does “flip your lid” mean to become very angry? The best way to even start to explain how this idiom came to mean something completely different is by providing an analogy — take a teapot that has a lid with an air hole, and when the water boils inside the teapot, the lid starts to whistle, making it sound angry (which we really know means that the water has boiled, is hot). And doesn’t “hot” in this sense of flipping your lid mean becoming angry .



“I’m so hot (angry) I could flip my lid (blow some steam).”

If I’m talking about a topic to someone, and that person is not liking the topic and becoming irate, angry, he just might “flip his lid”, lose self-control because of the topic.

Ah, a bit of an explanation.

There are other idioms, everyday phrases in America, that mean the same. Some we hear more than others, but they are basically the same. Take “flip out.” We are not turning anything over and putting it outside, but when we “flip out” it means that we are losing emotional control, acting wildly, or losing our temper. We do not “flip out” when something good happens, like the Chicago Cubs winning to go to the World Series, but we do flip out when negative happens, like when that promotion at work went to someone else who is less deserving. We could “flip out”, act wildly, or simply lose our temper.

Sometimes it could mean “going crazy” but flip out is only used in this case when a person really goes crazy, not just a temporary action of acting wildly, but the kind of wildness when a person has a psychotic break.

My all time favorite is “lose it” — I use this to have many meanings. You could “lose it” when I view you as becoming irrationally angry, and I walk away. Or, maybe you have said something to me that will make me lose my temper, and I will say “I better leave before I lose it”, lose my temper. But the best one is simply when I mean I’m going to lose my mind — like when the Cubs won enough games to go to the World Series, I could lose my mind, “lose it” because of elation. Here, “lose it” has both positive and negative influences, depending on what is happening.

So, I hope this helps you understand something about that teapot, that anger, that lid that is flipping.

Then again, maybe I need to simply put a lid on it (stop it) before I over explain.




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Red Herring

I promised I would not write about politics, one way or the other, but the politics of the day definitely uses “red herring”, a logical fallacy to draw attention from the real facts. I used to teach this part of logic in my composition class at the university, and my students had a really hard time trying to use a red herring in their writing, but we do it all the time in our speech, in our thinking, in our game playing world.



This is what a red herring is all about — words, actions to distract you the reader, the listener from the real issue at hand.

How many times have you watched the political debates on TV and the moderator asks a question and neither candidate answers the question. That, my friend, is a red herring.



In composition the student was to use it as a part of logic to show that the argument is not relevant to the issue being discussed. Believe me, not many students were successful with this type of writing. And if they were, I might have suggested they become political speech writers or mystery writers.

Mystery writers use this technique. People love to read a good mystery, and the killer part is when a red herring is introduced. That is when the plot gets good. The red herring, this misleading clue, this clever way to induce the reader to make a false conclusion is what makes a good mystery, good. I love to read Dan Brown’s work, and he definitely used red herring in The Da Vinci Code. If you know the story, the main character is chasing clues to only find they are misleading, and he has to continue with his search.

But other people use it, too. The habitual criminal will use it to divert the police, the elementary and high school student uses it to explain the late paper — for that matter, college students use it, too. I once had a student who had at least 7 grandmas die so he could be excused from class. I caught on after two. But, he did try. What was the real issue — he had been arrested for drugs, but he didn’t tell me until he said he was not going to be able to finish the class because he was being sentenced. I made him get a note from the judge, and he did, and then I let him take the test early so he could get credit for the class. But, if he would have just told me instead of trying to distract me with dead grandmas…

Children use it — “Time to go to bed, Johnny.” and Johnny responds, “Why is the sky blue?”

Oh — and the word has nothing to do with a red herring because there is no such thing as a red herring. If it refers to anything in the fish world, it is a strongly cured kipper. So, in the end, the idiom itself is a red herring, it distracts the listener from the real issue, never really giving the listener the real answer. Now, if that doesn’t confuse people, I don’t know what will.


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I’m a Day Late and a Dollar Short

I have been in the middle of a remodeling job on my bathroom, and I meant to write on Friday, but I simply couldn’t. The last workman left at 7 p.m. and I was so tired, I would not have been able to make sense. So, in my mind, I thought I would write Saturday — I would have been a day late and a dollar short, but it would have been only a day late.

This idiom has nothing to do with money — a dollar — nada, nothing, and everything to do with being late. I have always used it when I have been a bit late when I knew better to be late. Such as, if I had been organized, I would have written this post on Thursday, then posted it on Friday, as expected. Instead, I did not. You could say I was a bit careless with my time management.

Saturday turned to Sunday as I put my house back together after the workers did their thing, and soon my day late and dollar short turned into too little, too late — not enough done soon enough. My Friday posting did not happen when it was suppose to happen, in fact it did not happen at all, so I scratched the original idiom I was going to write about, and decided on a day late and a dollar short. But, really, maybe it was too little, too late.

But I don’t like the idiom “too little, too late” because it has a negative connotation. It’s like when something done can not be rectified. It’s like an apology after the fact that the person had done the harm, not felt remorse, but then felt he had better apologize to “save face”. Too little, too late is past the point of return, of correction.

Too little, too late is different from “dead in the water” because that means that a situation has come to a halt, a stop. My idiom blog is not dead in the water, done, over with no recourse to restart.

So, in actuality, I am a day late and a dollar short — a very long day late. If you would have given up on me and unfollowed my blog it would have been too little, too late for me, but one thing is for sure — my writing on words and what they mean are not and will never be dead in the water!

Hopefully, I shall return on Friday….

Until then…have a great day…

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Goody Two Shoes

“Well, she’s a goody two shoes, who always follows the white line with her straitlaced actions, prissy dress and prudish manners.”

I get the picture. I get the picture. We are talking about a woman who has excessively high morals, who only does what is expected of her, who is very proper in her manners and opinions, who is excessively respectable, and who is easily shocked by things that others are not shocked with. She is a goody-two shoes.

Do those people exist? Yes, I think so, but not in my circle of friends and family. We (I think anyway) understand that everyone makes mistakes, and we try to rectify the mistake and go on. I also think that a goody two shoe is easy to judge the actions, dress, and wordage of another. After all, goody comes from good, right? and they think they are so good, right? Well, not exactly.

Good means excellent, beneficial, valuable and the word has been around forever — as far back as Old English and Old Norse. In other words, a long time. So, the word “good” has withstood the test of time — it still means the same — beneficial or advantageous. It also means morally right, but there are many people who are good but are not goody two shoes. They’re just plain good, nice people.

On the other hand, “goody” comes from being a goodwife ( and I do not mean a good wife, a wife who is good, I say a goodwife — notice the two words are combined when it can be shortened to goody). In England, Scotland and colonial America a woman, whether it be a Mrs. or a Miss and she was of a lower economical rank she was referred to as a goodwife. (A woman who had a higher social rank was called a Mistress — i.e., the Mistress of the house). Ah, so now words are defining where someone stands in society. That is not so today. I would have no way of knowing which Mrs. or Miss or Ms. stood in societal ranking. Today, we figure that out by the address they keep.


So, how did “goody” get to “goody two shoes”? It’s from a children’s book “The History of Little Goody Two Shoes” published anonymously by John Newberry in London in 1765. Basically, it is a Cinderella story — this little girl lost her parents and was so poor (goody) she only had one shoe. Someone bought her another shoe and she went around town announcing she had two shoes. The upshot of the story is she grew up, became a teacher, and married someone of wealth. Then, she helped the poor. That is her history.

(photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)



That was not the first time the phrase “goody two shoes” was used.

Charles Cotton used the phrase in 1694 in a poem, and this time the phrase refers to a gossipy housewife:

“Why, what then, Goody two shoes, what if it be?/Hold you, if you can, your tittle- tattle, quoth he.”

(tittle-tattle means gossip)

So, fast forward a few hundred years, and goody two shoes has nothing to do with a rank in society or having two shoes, but it has everything to do with referring to a person who is smug about being good.

I may have been known to follow the white line at times, because I do know what is expected of me and I act accordingly, but that is as far as my goody two shoes goes.

Who do you know who is a goody two shoes, a prude (someone easily shocked by what others say or do when others are not shocked with the actions of the people in question), prissy (cares too much about dressing, language or behaving properly), straitlaced (very proper in manners, morals and opinions), or like me, at times, follow the white line?

We all have a bit of any of this in us, or else there are no rules to acting in society. It’s just how far do we go?

Until Friday…



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Keep Your Head Above Water

Since Hurricane Matthew is bearing down on the Caribbean and the southeastern states of America, I thought this would be an appropriate idiom.



This phrase can be taken in the literal sense, where someone is trying to keep his feet (here) on the log, or above water.

But, that is not what we really mean when we say “I’m just trying to keep my head above water.” It has nothing to do with water, per se, and everything to keep oneself from drowning in financial debt, from dropping from exhaustion, from being overwhelmed with emotional tension.

This phrase is used a lot in middle class America because most people are staying afloat with their bills and obligations, they are barely keeping their heads above water. It was more serious when there was the housing bubble that turned into a housing nightmare as many people could not keep their head above water and lost their jobs and houses. Actually, many of those people did drown in debt, which means that they could not keep up and lost.

Which brings me to Hurricane Matthew. As I type I have a very recent picture of St. Augustine, Florida, in my mind as it is being hammered by the winds, rain, and storm surges. Beautiful, historical St. Augustine will take a while to recover. But it will. They are barely keeping their heads above water there, both literally and figuratively, but they are.

What saddens me more is the devastation of Haiti. Once again, this poor nation who can not keep its head above water is drowning again.


It seems they only get over a hurricane, earthquake, tropical storm or a mudslide and it happens again. This is what Haiti looks like today after Matthew. Not only did over 800 people literally drown, could not keep their heads above water, but now they will not be able to figuratively keep their heads above water — where are the jobs to come from if this is what is left of some parts of Haiti? And without jobs, there is no money, and if there is no money, there is no food, no clothing, no shelter — what we say are the essentials. For Haiti, it is beyond keeping their heads above water. Now it is survival. Food, clothing, shelter.

The housing bubble turned nightmare was one thing, and a very costly, devastating crises to go through, but then there is Haiti, and countries like Haiti that have nothing after a natural disaster.

Personally, I would much rather lose my house in a country where eventually I will be able to find work vs. a country where the work does not come easy.



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Bad Blood

When I hear the idiom “bad blood”, the “Cops” theme song runs through my head — “bad boys, bad boys, what ‘cha gonna do when they come for you”, but “bad blood” has nothing to do with an individual having bad blood — being a “bad” person. Actually, “bad blood” has everything to do with emotions.

The negative emotions.

Long ago, bad blood meant you were angry. We have kept that definition through the years, only it is tweaked now. Modernized. Now it means ill feelings between two people or two groups of people. I think of the famous feud, Hatfields vs. McCoys. Now, there was some bad blood there! And if I wanted to get technical, I imagine I could find some real “bad blood” within those two groups, and I don’t mean emotions, I mean “bad boys”. My family had a vendetta also that carried through the years.

Story — When I was deciding which university to go to for my Master’s Degree, I applied to my undergraduate school, then looked around for housing. I was interested in this one mobile home, but once the owner found out my last name, he instead told me to get off his property and never come back. Unknowingly, I would say there was some bad blood there.

Sometimes bad blood is carried through generations and centuries. Mine has.

Could “bad blood” be used to describe a person who is “bad” — one who is wicked or immoral? I believe so. I wouldn’t want to impose the stereotype on a prankster or a person who is petty in his activities, but one who is truly “bad” would have “bad blood” — I am thinking of the Neros through the ages, the people who kill and torture for the sake of killing and torturing. These people are “bad”, there is some bad blood running through their veins.

So, what is “bad”? It could mean something as simply not good, such as a person, or food, or a road that needs to be fixed. Good and bad are such subjective, abstract words — left up to another individual to decide what the word means (for them). I can describe food or a road (the concrete words), but really, what makes a person good or bad? I define a bad person as the Neros of the world, as I have defined above, and the good person as the Mother Teresas of the world, helping another without wanting a personal gain.

Continuing with “bad”, I could be described as a bad singer — not good, or maybe I have a bad debt — an amount of money I owe someone. Then, there is a diet that is bad, that would have to be the junk food diet, that is bad for you, harmful to you.

Now, since we can basically say that the word bad is a negative word, I am going to throw a wrench (another idiom to write on at a later date) in this entire piece — you can also feel bad for a person. That also is an emotion, but it is a positive emotion because it is showing empathy — understanding how another feels.

What does all this show? That in the midst of all the bad blood, there is good that emerges, with a little empathy for a friend or a stranger!

And now I have that dang “Cops” song going on in my head.”Bad boys, bad boys, what ‘cha gonna do when they come for you”…

Until Friday…we have a bad storm a comin’, it’s called a hurricane, so I hope I am up and running (another idiom) Friday….




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