Food Idioms
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Butter Up! 7 Butter Expressions

Have you ever realized how important butter is? Cream cheese may think it is the cat's meow, but to English and American folks, if not Scottish and Irish folks as well, butter is where it's at. To realize this, all you have to do is count the number of expressions and idioms we have concerning butter.

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Eating Humble Pie: How Did This Expression Come About?

Humble Pie Meaning

To eat humble pie is to be humiliated and forced to admit error or wrongdoing. It is similar to having to eat crow and may also refer to a general drop in social status. Although we cannot be sure of the origin of the latter, we have a pretty good idea of the origin of the former. It may surprise you to know that it was not always metaphorical. In fact, it was very literal. What does it literally have to do with? Why, the innards of a deer!

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Origin of 'Egg on Your Face' Expression

Have you ever had egg on your face? Possibly, after eating eggs. But someone having egg on their face is also an idiomatic expression meaning to look foolish after having made some mistake. The expression is figurative in that the person doesn't really have egg on their face. But, does the expression come from having remnants of egg yolk left on one's face after eating soft-cooked eggs? Perhaps, but it is difficult to be sure.

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Origin of Expression 'Apple Pie Order'

The expression 'apple pie order' is used to refer to something being perfectly neat and tidy. For example, we might say a person who keeps their kitchen clean and perfectly organized keeps their kitchen in apple pie order. How did this phrase originate? What does being neat and orderly have to do with apple pie? There are at least four explanations for the origin of this expression. As we shall, none of them are entirely satisfactory.

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Origin of "Hair of the Dog" for a Hangover Cure

It's Sunday morning, or, rather, afternoon. Saturday night is a blur, but you do know that you drank more than your fair share. You know this because of your pounding headache, and queasy stomach. You know because the afternoon sun hitting your eyes feels like someone is taking an electric drill to your brain. You're weak, achy, dizzy, and there is a taste in your mouth that is indescribable and altogether disgusting. Oh, and you have cotton-mouth to boot. In a word, you are miserable. Worst hangover ever. Well, there is nothing for it but the hair of the dog.

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Origin Of 'Hot Potato' Expression

Meaning of Hot Potato

When we say something is a hot potato, we are referring to something that is controversial, awkward, embarrassing, difficult, or unpleasant to deal with and which people want to avoid. We often refer, as well, to a 'political hot potato.' Either term is in most often used in reference to a public issue. But, the idiom can also refer to a person who is disagreeable or unpleasant. Examples of how 'hot potato' might be used are:

We might say, for example, "Abortion was a hot potato subject during the last election." How did the term come to be used in this way? Why a potato, and not some other object?

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Origin Of 'Kill The Fatted Calf' Expression

To kill the fatted calf is to prepare a huge celebratory feast, especially to welcome someone. It means to have a big party with lots of food and drink.

The American Heritage Dictionary Of Idioms defines it as "to prepare for a joyful occasion or a warm welcome." An example would be a long lost beloved relative coming home: "When Steve comes home from his deployment we are going to kill the fatted calf.

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Origin of the Expression "Salad Days"

The idiomatic expression Salad Days originally referred to a period of youthful inexperience, naivety, immaturity, impetuousness, or unskillful exuberance. Like many food-related expressions, the term was coined by William Shakespeare. Specifically, the term was used by Cleopatra in the play Antony and Cleopatra, meaning the expression stretches back to 1606.

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Origin of the Expression 'Worth Your Salt'

When we say someone is worth their salt, we mean literally that he or she earns whatever reward they get, which usually refers to their paycheck, but can also simply denote a person who is worthy of respect or admiration.

But how did salt come to be a measurement of worth?

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Origin of the Phrase 'Square Meal'

Today, we use the phrase 'square meal' to refer to a full, balanced meal. We might say, "Boy, I'm full. That was a square meal" or "I'm hungry, let's find a place we can get a square meal." It basically means a good and filling meal. One good meal is called a square meal but we also have the phrase, three square meals. This phrase is so common that a recent translation of the Bible changed "Give us this day our daily bread" to "Keep us alive with three square meals." Less than poetic, for sure.

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Origin of the Term Gravy Train as in "Riding the Gravy Train?"

The name of a dog food and the subject of at least one blues song by W.C. Handy, gravy train is a slang term which refers to easy money that just keeps on rolling in, with little effort required. Say, for instance, you receive a large inheritance from a mysterious relative, which comes in monthly installments: You are riding the gravy train. Where did we get this curious idiom?

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Origin of the Term "Hodgepodge"

Meaning of Hodgepodge

Hodgepodge has come to mean any mixture of things that are not really meant to go together, but it originally referred to a soup of all sorts of ill-suited ingredients jumbled together in a pot.

In other words, it is a soup that you just threw together with whatever you had on hand, whether the ingredients were harmonious or not.

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Pie in the Sky: Where Did This Expression Come From?

Pie in the sky is an expression of cynicism. It has various shades of meaning but it basically refers to an idea or dream that is not likely at all to ever happen.

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'There's No Such Thing As a Free Lunch' Origin

What Does 'There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch' Mean?

When we say 'there's no such thing as a free lunch,' we mean to express that there are few things in life that are truly given to us at no cost or free. There are usually strings or at least expectations attached. The cost of goods or services has to come from somewhere. In other words, you can't get something for nothing, and if something appears to be free, it isn't really. A similar saying is "there is no such thing as a free ride."

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What does Giving Someone the Cold Shoulder Have to do With Food?

The idiom, to give someone the cold shoulder, meaning to snub them or treat them with aloofness, has been in use at least since the 1800's.

If you look for lexical clues, you might assume that it has something to do with your own shoulder, and something you would do with your shoulder, as body language, toward another person, as in looking over your shoulder with a disdainful glance, or keeping a shoulder between you and a person you do not like, so that you are treating them "coldly" and thus giving them a "cold shoulder."

Well, you will often find that searching for clues in the actual words an idiom uses will lead you astray.

Giving someone the cold shoulder did not originally, in all probability, have anything to do with body language.

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