idiom // n. a group of words established by usage and having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words
a load of codswallop
a lot of nonsense, rubbish
Codd was a Victorian businessman and wallop was nineteenth century slang
for beer. In 1872 Hiram Codd went into business selling lemonade in green bottles sealed
with a marble stopper. Beer drinkers thought little of this new drink and gave it the
derisory nick-name Codswallop.
people say the world is flat, but this is a load of codswallop, it
is of course, round.
beyond the pale
outside of societies limits. Not acceptable conduct
Pale comes from the Latin word palum, meaning 'stake'. In early English this
came to mean a fence which surrounded something such as a cathedral or some other
authority. In later times its meaning altered to the limit of political jurisdiction. Life
within the pale was civilised, whereas beyond it was considered uncouth and barbaric.
Hence one could be said to be beyond the pale.
people who do not contribute to society in any way are beyond the pale and
should not be able to benefit from that to which they do not contribute
to put a spoke in someone's wheel
deliberately hinder someone's plans
hundreds of years ago cartwheels were made from solid wood. The front wheels of a cart
would have holes in them through which a spoke could be thrust in order to prevent or slow
the cart from running away downhill.
I had planned to buy a new car but the banks refusal to lend me some money has put
a spoke in the wheels of my plan.
at the end of my tether
at the point of frustration or at the end of one's endurance.
A tether is a rope which is used to restrict the freedom of grazing animals by tying
one end around their neck and the other to a stake in the ground.
if my boss doesn't listen to me soon I will explode, I'm at the end of my tether.
to hang fire
to delay. To be pending
In days gone by when the main charge in an artillery piece was slow to fire it was
said to be 'hanging fire'. Now the term is used to describe something which is held up or
I'd like to go home now but I'd better hang fire for a while until some others
on the grapevine
gossip or rumour through an informal channel
In the years after the invention of the Telegraph there was a mad rush to erect
telegraphs to as many places as possible in the shortest time. In 1859 Colonel Bee put a
line up between Placerville and Virginia City. He used trees to carry the wires instead of
telegraph poles. Their movement stretched and tangled the wires until they fell to the
ground, looking similar to the wild vines found in California. During the American Civil
War messages that were received via the telegraph that were thought to be mis-information
or inaccurate were said to have arrived on the 'grapevine telegraph', a mocking
reference to Colonel Bees venture.
I heard, on the grapevine, that John is going to marry Jane.
not enough room to swing a cat
a confined space
Many people incorrectly think that this is a reference to the old Navel punishment of
the 'cat of nine tails', however the phrase has been found in use long before that
punishment was ever metered out by the Navy. In fact the phrase refers to the practice of
putting a cat in a sack then suspending the sack from a tree, swinging the sack and then
using it for archery practice.
This room is too small, there's not enough room to swing a cat.
to kick the bucket
In slaughterhouses, the rail on which pigs are hung after slaughter to drain off the
blood is known as the bucket bar. Muscle spasms after death sometimes lead to the dead pig
twitching as if to kick the bucket bar, hence the expression.
Fred kicked the bucket last week. Now that he's dead he will be sadly missed.