Category Archives: Phrases

What is the Pinocchio Effect?

alex atkins bookshelf phrasesThere are so many lies coming out of Washington D.C. — each day alternative facts, fake news, misrepresentations, and misstatements are colliding with one another at such a dizzying pace, like atoms colliding, resulting in a spectacular explosion of bullshit that blocks out even the tiniest glimpse of reality. Even seasoned White House correspondents are scrambling for different ways of referring to all this bullshit by using different euphemisms like balderdash, baloney, booty chatter, bull honky, bunk, canard, cock and bull story, codswallop, concoction, crock, falsehood, fib, fiction, fish story, flapdoodle, hogwash, hokum, hooey, horse manure, inveracity, jiggery-pokery, malarkey, misrepresentation, misstatement, moonshine, piffle, pish posh, poppycock, prevarication, prevarication, rubbish, stretcher, tall tale, twaddle, untruth, whopper. Whew! All of this lying would even make Pinocchio’s little wooden head spin.

Speaking of Pinocchio — when discussing lies and lying, psychologists refer to the Pinocchio effect. No, the Pinocchio effect does not refer to the lengthening of the nose described in the famous children’s novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio (1881) by Carlo Collodi (otherwise most politicians could not fit through standard doorways without turning sideways). In science, the Pinocchio effect describes the increase in temperature around the nose and in the orbital muscle in the corner of the eye when a person lies. In a pioneering study conducted in 2012, researchers at the University of Granada, Emilio Gómez Milán and Elvira Salazar López, used thermographic cameras to measure temperature on the face of human subjects. When a person performs considerable mental effort (eg., being interrogated or lying), the overall temperature of his or her face drops (except around the nose and corner of the eyes); however, when a person experiences anxiety, overall face temperature rises. The researchers elaborate: “When we lie about our feelings, the temperature around our nose raises and a brain element called insula is activated. The insula is a component of the brain reward system, and it only activates when we experience real feelings (called qualias). The insula is involved in the detection and regulation of body temperature. Therefore, there is a strong negative correlation between insula activity and temperature increase: the more active the insule (the greater the feeling) the lower the temperature change, and vice versa.”

Read related posts: What is the Barnum Effect?
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What is the Big Lie?

For further reading: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121203081834.htm
https://forsythstories.com/2017/01/28/36-euphemisms-for-lie-white-house-correspondents-can-use/


Phrases That Cannot Be Translated Literally

alex atkins bookshelf phrases“Most of the world’s languages have phrases or sentences that cannot be understood literally,” writes lexicographer Richard Spears. “Even if you know all the words in a phrase and understand all the grammar… the meaning may still be elusive. A phrase or sentence of this type is said to be idiomatic.” American English, being so idiomatic, causes a lot of confusion for second language learners. Imagine their horror when they hear that someone is “trying to bury the hatchet” with another person; or a person states “I’m so hungry, I could eat a horse.” The actual meaning of those phrases is lost in translation; of course, English speakers know they have nothing to do with hatchets or horses. But how is an English language learner supposed to know that?

The English language, however, does not have a monopoly on phrases that when translated literally seem, well idiotic. Just ask the translators involved with the Open Translation Project, who translate TED Talks into over 100 languages. They were asked to share their favorite idiomatic phrases, or phrases that cannot be translated literally. Use at your own peril (idiom followed by literal translation, followed by actual meaning):

German Idioms
Idiom: Tomaten auf den Augen haben.
Translated literally: “You have tomatoes on your eyes.”
Actual Meaning: “You are not seeing what everyone else can see. It refers to real objects, though — not abstract meanings.”

Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof.
“I only understand the train station.”
“I don’t understand a thing about what that person is saying.’”

Die Katze im Sack kaufen.
“To buy a cat in a sack.”
That a buyer purchased something without inspecting it first.

French Idioms 
Avaler des couleuvres.
“To swallow grass snakes.”
“It means being so insulted that you’re not able to reply.” 

Sauter du coq à l’âne.
“To jump from the cock to the donkey.”
“It means to keep changing topics without logic in a conversation.” 

Se regarder en chiens de faïence.
“To look at each other like earthenware dogs.”
“Basically, to look at each other coldly, with distrust.” 

Les carottes sont cuites!
“The carrots are cooked!”
“The situation can’t be changed.”

Swedish Idioms
Det är ingen ko på isen
“There’s no cow on the ice.”
“There’s no need to worry. 

Att glida in på en räkmacka
“To slide in on a shrimp sandwich.”
“somebody who didn’t have to work to get where they are.”

Det föll mellan stolarna
“It fell between chairs.”
“It’s an excuse you use when a person was supposed to do something, and forgot to do it.”

Russian Idioms
Галопом по Европам
“Galloping across Europe.”
“To do something hastily, haphazardly.”

На воре и шапка горит
“The thief has a burning hat.”
“He has an uneasy conscience that betrays itself.”

Хоть кол на голове теши
“You can sharpen with an ax on top of this head.”
“He’s a very stubborn person.”

The idiom: брать/взять себя в руки
“To take oneself in one’s hands.”
“to pull yourself together.”

Portuguese Idioms
Quem não se comunica se trumbica
“He who doesn’t communicate, gets his fingers burnt.”
“He who doesn’t communicate gets into trouble.”’

Quem não tem cão caça com gato
“He who doesn’t have a dog hunts with a cat.”
“You make the most of what you’ve got.” Basically, you do what you need to do, with what the resources you have. 

Empurrar com a barriga
“To push something with your belly.”
“To keep postponing an important chore.”

Pagar o pato
“Pay the duck.”
“To take the blame for something you did not do.”

Polish Idioms
Słoń nastąpił ci na ucho?
“Did an elephant stomp on your ear?”
 “You have no ear for music.”

Bułka z masłem.
“It’s a roll with butter.”
“It’s really easy.”

Z choinki się urwałaś?
“Did you fall from a Christmas tree?”
“You are not well informed, and it shows.”

Read related posts: Words Related to Trump
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Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels
The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations

For further reading: http://blog.ted.com/40-idioms-that-cant-be-translated-literally/


Euphemisms for Death

alex atkins bookshelf wordsThere is so much death in Shakespeare’s plays. Perhaps the Bard could have softened the blow of death by using something a bit lighter. What if Hamlet had said, “For in that sleep when thou hast been permanently out of print what dreams may come/ When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, \ Must give us pause.” Or “For in that sleep when thou art basting the formaldehyde turkey what dreams may come…” There are so many euphemisms for “death’ — surely the Bard could have used any of these colorful expressions:

Angels carried him/her away
Assume room temperature

Ate it
At peace

At rest
Baste the formaldehyde turkey
Become living-challenged
Beyond the grave

Beyond the veil
Bite the dust
Bite the big one
Blow someone’s brains out
Born asleep
Bought the farm

Breathe one’s last
Brown bread
Buy the farm
Cash in one’s chips
Candyman
Charon
Checking out the grass from underneath

Come to a sticky end
Counting worms
Croak
Crossed over

Crossed the Jordan
Crossing the river Styx

Curtains/final curtain
Dead as a dodo
Dead as a doornail
Death by Misadventure
Departed

Depart this life
Destroyed/to be destroyed
Die with one’s boots on
Didn’t make it
Done for
Drop dead
Drop like flies
Euthanasia
Expired

Exterminate
Fading away
Fall off one’s perch
Flatline

Food for worms
Free one’s horses
Genocide
Gave/give up the ghost
Go to a better place
Go over the Big Ridge
Go bung
Go for a Burton
Go to Davy Jones’s locker
Go to the big gig in the sky
Go home in a box
Go out with one’s boots on/with a bang/in style
Go to, or head for, the last roundup
Go to one’s reward
Go to one’s watery grave
Go to a Texas cakewalk
Go to the happy hunting ground

Go the way of all flesh
Go west
The Grim Reaper
Hand in one’s dinner pail
Have bought it
Have one foot in the grave
Hitching a ride in the hearse

Hop on the last rattler
Hop the twig
In Abraham’s bosom
Join the choir invisible
Join the great majority
Juggling halos

Justifiable Homicide
Kick/kicked the bucket
Kick the calendar
Killed In Action (KIA)
King of Terrors
Kiss that arse goodbye
Live on a farm (upstate)
Living impaired

Lose one’s life
Make the ultimate sacrifice
Matricide
Meet one’s maker
Murder Death Kill (MDK)
Night
Not long for this world
Not with us anymore
Off on a boat
Off the hooks
On one’s deathbed
On one’s last legs
One’s hour has come
One’s number is up
On the heavenly shores

Pass away
Pass in one’s alley
Patricide
Pay the ultimate price
Paying a debt to nature

Peg out
Permanently out of print

Pop one’s clogs
Promoted to Glory
Push up daisies
Put down/put to sleep
Put one to the sword
Rainbow Bridge
Ride the pale horse
Riding the hearse

Send one to Eternity or to the Promised Land
Sent/go to the farm
Shade
Shuffle off this mortal coil
Six feet under
Sleeps/sleeping with the fishes
Snuff it
Struck down
Suicide
Swimming with concrete shoes
Take/taking a dirt nap
Take a last bow
Take the last train to glory.
Take one’s life
Top yourself
Traded to the angels
Turn up one’s toes

Until one’s dying day
Up and die
Wearing cement boots

Wearing a pine overcoat (i.e. a wooden coffin)
Wearing a toe tag

Winning one for the reaper
Wiped out…way up..
With one’s last breath
Worm food
Yield up the ghost

Read related posts: Synonyms for Said
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Best English Dictionary

For further reading: http://www.you-can-be-funny.com/Euphemisms-For-Death.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_expressions_related_to_death#cite_note-cambridge-1


Phrases and Idioms Related to Eggs

There are many phrases in English that use the literal and metaphorical concept of the egg. Everyone is familiar with the idiom “don’t put your eggs in one basket” — but don’t tell that to the editors of dictionaries (presumably all good eggs), who have literally put all their words into one dictionary. Eggsactly. Since you can’t make a list without turning some pages, here are some common and rare egg-related idioms phrases found by thumbing through the dictionary:

 

A bad egg: a bad or dishonest person

A curate’s egg: something that is partly good and bad

A good egg: an agreeable or pleasant person

As alike on eggs: synonym of “peas in a pod”; resembling one another

As sure as eggs is eggs (often shortened to “safe as eggs”): definitely

Better an egg today than a hen tomorrow: synonym of “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” It is better to have a sure thing now rather than the possibility of more later

Butter-and-egg man: a prosperous businessman from a small town; a farmer who spends money lavishly when visiting the big city

Chicken and egg: a situation in which it is difficult or impossible to say which of two things existed first and which caused the other one

Egg on one’s face: humiliation; appearing ridiculous or foolish

Nest egg: money saved for an emergency or retirement

To egg on: to encourage

To kill the goose that lays the golden egg: to destroy the reliable source of one’s income

To lay an egg: to fail horribly, especially in front of an audience

To put all one’s eggs in one basket: to risk everything on the success of a single venture

Walk on eggshells: to walk, speak, or act very cautiously

You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs: one cannot accomplish something without adverse effects elsewhere

Read related posts: Words Related to Trump
Resume Euphemisms
What Rhymes with Orange?
The Most Mispronounced Words
Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
Difficult Tongue Twisters
Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations

For further reading: http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2016/10/egg-idioms/?utm_source=Mar10-17&utm_campaign=od-newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=eggs-blogpost-fourthpanel-right
http://www.dictionary.com


Words Related to Trump

atkins bookshelf wordsIn a short period of time, President Donald Trump and his daily tweets — many filled with ad hominem attacks, accusations, and alternative views and facts — has baffled, exasperated, and outraged both parties, political pundits, not to mention people across the nation and around the globe. But a review of all the Trump-related words leads one to the inevitable conclusion that the man is simply living up to his name. And even more interestingly (or disturbingly, depending on your point of view), Trump is trying to out trump Trump. Take a look at the list of trump words and you be the judge.

trump (noun): a trumpet or trumpet blast

trump (verb): to beat someone by doing or saying something

trumps: the suit having the rank above the others in a particular hand

trump card: a valuable resource that can only be used once, especially as a surprise, in order to gain a distinct advantage 

trump something up: to invent a false accusation

trumped-up: false or fabricated

trumpery: something that is of little worth or quality; something that is fraudulent

trumpet (noun): a brass musical instrument with a flared bell and a loud, penetrating tone

trumpet (verb): to proclaim loudly or widely

trumpet call: a rousing summons to take action

Individually or taken as a whole, the aforementioned words and phrases are apt descriptions of Trump. But there is something oddly familiar about Trump, as if he stepped out of a Dickens novel. Indeed, the man is so overwhelmingly Dickensian — a jumble of odd characteristics (the large frame with small hands, the jutting eyebrows, steely eyes, the pursed lips revealing clenched overbleached teeth, orange complexion, and the dramatic combover that turns into a golden jagged sail at the slightest breeze), idiosyncrasies, distinctive hand gestures, and cadence that provide great fodder for parody and ridicule by comedians, editorial cartoonists, and pundits. And just like some of Dickens’ greatest characters (think Fagin, Scrooge, Havisham, Marley, Pickwick, Podsnap, and Uriah Heep), Trump, through his actions and words, has unwittingly defined his own word — Trumpian. The word will undoubtedly endure far longer than his rocky and controversial administration.

Trumpian: resembling the the style, rhetoric, and philosophy of Donald Trump; a person who possesses some or all of the following traits: avaricious, belligerent, boastful, bombastic, capricious, demagogic, dictatorial, hypocritical, impulsive, intimidating, misogynistic, narcissistic, perfidious, petulant, pretentious, reckless, self-righteous, self-destructive, thin-skinned, undisciplined, untrustworthy, vain, and vengeful

Related words: Trumpish, Trumpesque

Read related posts: There’s a Word for That: Trumpery
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Random Fascinating Facts About Presidents

 

 

 


What is the Meaning of the Ides of March?

atkins-bookshelf-phrasesIn the ancient Roman calendar, before the Christian Era, every month had three named days: the Calends (or Kalends), the first day of the month when accounts were due; the Nones, the fifth or seventh day of the month; and the Ides, the middle of the month (between the 13th to 15th day). There was nothing particularly significant about the ides of January, the ides of February, and so forth.

All that changed in 1599 when William Shakespeare wrote The Tragedy of Julius Ceasar. In Act 1, Scene 2, in a public place on March 15th, 44 BC, a soothsayer among the crowd approaches Caesar and calls out: “Caesar!… Beware the ides of March.” Caesar is not sure he has heard the man correctly, so Brutus repeats it: “A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.”  The soothsayer repeats the line, warning that the Roman leader’s life is in danger. But Caesar immediately dismisses him: “He is a dreamer; let us leave him: pass.” As we all know, Caesar should have heeded the soothsayer’s warning. In a scene filled with brutality and treachery, Caesar is surrounded by an angry mob of senators who walk up to him and stab him to death. He is stabbed a total of 23 times. As his life slips away, a feeble Caesar turns to his closest friend and ally, Marcus Junius Brutus, and utters the famous line, “Et tu, Brute?” (you too, Brutus?), signifying the ultimate betrayal.

So from that point on, thanks to Shakespeare’s dramatic genius, the phrase “Beware the Ides of March” being linked to Caesar’s barbarous assassination, imbued upon March 15 a rather ominous and nefarious connotation that has been passed down through the centuries. However, Tom Frail, senior editor of Smithsonian magazine, notes that March 15th lives in infamy beyond Casear’s murder. He cites several events in history that occurred on that same fateful day that were filled with villainy or mortalities:

Raid on Southern England, March 15, 1360: The French raided a town in southern England and began a two-day spree of murder, rape, and pillage. King Edward III initiated a pillaging spree in France in retaliation.

Cyclone strikes Samoa, March 15, 1889: A cyclone strikes six warships that were at barber in Apia, Samoa. More than 200 sailors were killed.

Czar Nicholas II abdicates throne, March 15, 1917: Czar Nicholas II or Russia is forced to abdicate his royal throne (ending a dynasty of 304 years). A few months later, he and his family are executed.

Blizzard in Great Plains, March 15, 1941: A devastating blizzard, with 60-MPH winds, struck the northern Great Plains, killing more than 66 people.

Depletion of ozone layer, March 15, 1988: NASA reported that the ozone layer over the Northern Hemisphere has been depleted three times faster than had been predicted.

Outbreak of SARS, March 15, 2003: WHO reported a breakout of Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in China, Vietnam, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

Read related posts: The Buck Stops Here
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For further reading: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/top-ten-reasons-to-beware-the-ides-of-march-8664107/
http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/what-are-the-ides-of-march

 


What is the Term for Repeated Phrase?

atkins-bookshelf-phrasesA common rhetorical device used by poets, writers, and public speakers (especially pastors) is anaphora, defined as the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence or clause. Anaphora is derived from the Latin and Greek word anaphora, meaning “reference” and literally “a carrying back.” The anaphora establishes rhythm, but more importantly, it underscores an important idea. Anaphoras are often found in hymns and prayers; however the most famous anaphoras is found in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech delivered on August 28, 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The speech was heard by a crowd of over 250,000 people who came from all over the country to participate in the March on Washington for Freedom and Jobs.

The speech contains 1,667 words, however the best known words are contained in the anaphoral phrase “I have a dream,” used nine times in an improvised section of the speech (thanks to a shout out by legendary gospel singer Mahlia Jackson, known as “The Queen of Gospel”) that highlights the contrast between what the world is now, and what it can be:

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”2

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.” (Italics added)

A few lines later, as he approaches the speech’s conclusion, King returns to the anaphora, this time using “Let freedom ring” ten times:

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:
“My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,
From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.
And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.
Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.
Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.
Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.
But not only that: Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.
Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.
From every mountainside, let freedom ring.”

Read related post: Why “I Have a Dream” Speech Endures
The Wisdom of Martin Luther King
Martin Luther King and the Suicide Letter

The Gettysburg Address

For further reading: Words That Shook The World: 100 Years of Unforgettable Speeches and Events by Richard Greene (2002)
http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm

 

 


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