Questions About Language & Phrases


What does the term “two bits” mean and where does it come from?

“Two bits ” is an American term for 25 cents. It comes from the British slang “bit.” For example, a British person might say “a threepenny bit.” The slang was…

Where does the phrase, “Close, but no cigar” originate from?

I believe it comes from the old carnivals and street fairs. One of the many ways to lose your money was to test your strength on a tower with a…

Where did the phrase “Kick the bucket” come from?

The wooden frame that slaughtered animals were hung from is known as a bucket. The death spasms of the animals caused them to kick the bucket. So people used the…

Where did the phrase “Nothing to sneeze at” come from?

People in older times imagined that a sneeze cleared the mind. It certainly gave them a feeling of exhilaration. Suddenly, 17th century Europe caught a craze for sneezing. It was…

Who created the alphabet?

Alphabets have been around in some form for at least four millennia! Think of Egyptian hieroglyphics, for example. No one knows for sure what the first alphabet was. About 1500…

Where did the term “Red Tape” come from?

In England in the 1600′s, bureaucrats used red cloth tape to bind bundles of legal paper. By the early 1800′s, “red tape” had come to stand for all the delays…

Why are some words considered "bad"?

Some words are considered “bad” because they offend others. They are words that refer to impolite things, like body parts or bodily functions and most people don’t like to hear…

Where did the phrase “Bleeding Heart” come from?

You may have heard this saying, but don’t worry! It doesn’t mean that a person’s heart is bleeding; it only means that a person is extremely generous and giving to…

Where did the phrase “By the Skin of Your Teeth” come from?

If you pass a test by just a few points or your team barely wins the soccer game, people might say you did so by the skin of your teeth….

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October 7, 2015

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