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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Although it is not as widely practiced today as it once was, you can still find bakeries or bagel shops that, as a matter of course, include 13 items (or more) when a dozen are bought. This is the baker's dozen. Why did bakers take to this practice? Are bakers just generally kindhearted types who want to give their patron more than they bargained for? That would be nice, wouldn't it?
When we call something a 'red herring' we mean that it is a diversionary tactic meant to set us off in an irrelevant direction - a false trail, if you will. In logic, argumentation, and rhetoric, a red herring is considered either a fallacy or a tactic and it refers to any argument that dwells on irrelevant information so as to divert our attention from the true issues we are debating. It is sometimes called a red herring argument.1 What in the world does a fish have to do with diversion and logic?
The name of a dog food and the subject of at least one blues song by W.C. Handy, gravy train 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?
The phrase 'land of milk and honey' is a cliche expression used today to refer to a place full of comfort and luxury. It is especially used to mean the expectation of such a place when reality does not actually deliver.
We might say, "he came to America expecting a land of milk and honey."