Category Archives: Phrases

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?
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Words with Letters in Alphabetical Order
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Word Oddities: Fun with Vowels

The Big Book of Beastly Mispronunciations

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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, intimidator, misogynist, narcissistic, perfidious, petulant, pretentious, reckless, self-righteous, thin-skinned, untrustworthy, vain, and vengeful

Related words: Trumpish, Trumpesque

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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.

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For further reading: The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare


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
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For further reading: Words That Shook The World: 100 Years of Unforgettable Speeches and Events by Richard Greene (2002)



Resume Euphemisms

atkins-bookshelf-phrasesEach year, millions of Americans enter the workforce — many straight out of college, of course, but many rejoin the business world after a hiatus — moving on from misspent youth, trying a dubious career that didn’t pan out (you know how judgmental employers can be), or raising a family. In most cases, entering the workforce requires writing a compelling resume. And nothing inspires creativity like having to write a resume and promoting your greatest assets — with a bit of embellishment. Susan Ireland, the author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Resume observes, “It’s most important that a resume be honest. However, being honest does not mean ‘telling all.'” Recruiters agree. Judi Wunderlich, co-founder of a talent and recruitment firm in Chicago, adds: “Honesty is usually the best policy, but you’ve got to be careful not to hit them in the face with it.” So why write “stay-at-home parent” when you can write “child advocate.” Lying is too strong a word; you could call these necessary embellishments “resume white lies,” but let’s use a kinder, gentler term — like “resume euphemisms.” So if you are writing a resume, here are some creative resume euphemisms you can use.

Ran a failed business: “experienced entrepreneur”

Got fired: “advocate for the working class”

In between jobs: “self-employed”

Haven’t had a job in a long time: “consultant” or “freelancer”

Raised a family: “child advocate” or “expert problem solver” or “expert trouble shooter” (and not complete give-aways like “domestic engineer” or “household manager”)

Drug dealer: “pharmaceutical rep”

Stripper: “stage performer”

Drug mule: “transporter” or “commodity relocator”

Worked at a web company: “Internet pioneer”

Grew vegetables in your backyard: “small farm owner”

Helped your children with their homework: “tutor” or “success coach”

Actually completed your children’s homework: “perpetual student” or “fast learner”

Shopaholic: “consumer market researcher” or “product specialist”

Party animal: “social network expert” or “event coordinator”

Reads all junk mail: “direct mail marketing expert”

Dropped out of college: “learned by experience” or “learned by doing”

Had a string of unrelated jobs: “business maverick”

Drunkard: “wine industry rep” or “beer rep”

Keeps a daily diary: “unpublished author”

Filed for bankruptcy: “fiscal realist” or “presidential candidate”

Little League coach: “experienced team player”

Trash collector: “environmental services technician”

Failed at several jobs: “extensive experience” or “explores alternative ideas”

Coached track team: “proven track record”

Watches TV all night and sleeps in late: “dependable”

What other resume euphemisms can you suggest?

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For further reading: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Perfect Resume by Susan Ireland (2010)

Who is the “Person From Porlock”?

atkins-bookshelf-phrasesThe phrase “person from Porlock” (also known as the “man from Porlock” or simply “Porlock”) is a literary allusion that refers to an unwanted intruder who interrupts creative work or more precisely, a flash of inspiration, to the point that the work cannot be completed. Porluck also can mean an evasion or excuse not to work. Poet Robert Pinsky cites the telephone as “the perfect Porlockian escape.” He admits that when he is writing and receives a phone call from another writer, he is eager to take a break, engaging in “mutual Porlockism.”

The phrase has its origins in an incident that occurred to the famous Romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1797 while living in Nether Stowey, a small town in southwest England. Coleridge had taken opium while reading about Emperor of China Kubla Khan’s palace, Xanadu. While in an opium-induced dream, Coleridge conceived a poem consisting of over 200 lines. When he awoke, he began furiously writing his poem, Kubla Khan, that begins with the famous line: “In Kubla Khan /  A stately pleasure dome decree…” Unfortunately, he was in interrupted by a visitor, a person from Porlock, who was there to conduct some business (some scholars believe it was Coleridge’s drug dealer, a doctor who supplied him with laudanum).

Coleridge, writing in the third person, elaborates on the incident: “On awakening he appeared to himself to have a distinct recollection of the whole, and taking his pen, ink, and paper, instantly and eagerly wrote down the lines that are here preserved. At this moment he was unfortunately called out by a person on business from Porlock, and detained by him above an hour, and on his return to his room, found, to his no small surprise and mortification, that though he still retained some vague and dim recollection of the general purport of the vision, yet, with the exception of some eight or ten scattered lines and images, all the rest had passed away like the images on the surface of a stream into which a stone has been cast, but, alas! without the after restoration of the latter!”

Alas, Kubla Khan remain unfinished, consisting of only 54 lines. Damn Porluck! Consequently, Coleridge decided not to publish the work. From time to time he read it to friends at private readings. In 1816, Lord Byron encouraged Coleridge to publish the poem. And it’s a good thing he did, since critics now regard Kubla Khan one of Coleridges greatest poems, alongside Christabel and The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

A copy of Coleridge’s manuscript is on exhibit at the British museum, located in London, England. Cinephiles will instantly recognize that Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan is quoted in Orson Welles’ masterpiece, Citizen Kane, as the camera pans along the spectacular estate of Charles Foster Kane in the opening sequence.

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Notable Words of the 2016 Election

atkins bookshelf wordsCertainly, the 2016 presidential election has been one of the most mean-spirited, divisive, and offensive in the nation’s recent history. But politics is a double-edged sword: it is as annoying as it is fascinating, but in a schadenfreund way. Who can resist the swamp of misery that presidential candidates slog through for over a year? The never-ending exchange of insults, name-calling, finger-pointing, temper tantrums, the spinning of intricate web of lies, sensational sound bites, and so forth. The attention that these two dueling candidates have drawn is unprecedented. To get a sense of the scale, consider that most presidential debates are watched by 60-70 million viewers. However, the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, on September 26, was watched by over 84 million viewers — the most watched debate in the history of the country. Hence, voters are carefully noting how the candidates behave, what they believe, and what they say. Regardless of who wins the election, the acrimonious 2016 campaign has impacted the lexicon of the world. The editors at Merriam Webster and the Oxford English Dictionaries noted there were several surges in word lookups right after the debates and during breaking news cycles throughout the 2016 election. Here are some of the words and phrases that colored the 2016 presidential election:

alt-right: Shortened form of alternative right, a political movement that combines right-wing ideologies with racialized nationalism

anchor baby: a child born to American parents that are not citizens

basket of deplorables: large number of people who are bad (presumably because they are racist, sexist, or xenophobic)

big league: major, important; however, Trump uses it as an adverb, to mean completely or “big time”

bigly: 1. with great force or violently  2. boastfully or proudly. However, Trump uses it to mean completely or “big time”

braggadocious: archaic term for arrogant or boastful

cuckservative: an insulting term for mainstream conservatives

demagogue: a political leader who seeks support by appealing to emotions and prejudices or making false claims rather than by using rational arguments

disavow: to disown, to disclaim knowledge of or responsibility for something

healther: people who believe that Clinton is hiding a grave illness

juggernaut: a large, destructive force

loser: a person who has lost something; however, Trump uses it for anyone who disagrees with him

malarkey: nonsense; meaningless talk

misognyist: a person who hates women

oleaginous: having the nature of oil, unctuous, smarmy

pussyfoot: to avoid making a definite decision due to doubt or fear

Pyrrhic victory: a victory won at too great a cost

stop and frisk: a law that allows a police officer stop and pat down a person based on suspicion 

trumpery: attractive articles of little worth; showy but worthless

xenophobic: fearful of foreigners

yuge: the way Trump pronounces “huge”

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