The plural of asparagus is an interesting lesson in language. The word, in fact, could be said to not actually have a plural, or to have two plurals, depending on your viewpoint.
The expression 'apple pie order' is used to refer to something being perfectly neat and tidy. For example, we might say person who keeps their kitchen clean and perfectly organised 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.
Vittles is an old-time word for food which we tend to associate with the rural South, cowboys, pioneers, mountain men, and the like. It actually comes from Middle English, by way of French.
Arrowroot, usually available in powder form, is a root starch used for thickening in similar ways to corn starch or flour, although both the latter come from grains. Arrowroot is also used in the food industry to create very clear gels. This same clearness is an advantage when using arrowroot to thicken at home. Unlike corn starch, arrowroot does not make sauces, stocks, or gravies cloudy or opaque.
Today, you can buy a 'hibachi' in most discount department stores or hardware stores. Most of use think of them as small Japanese grills. This is essentially what they are, a small charcoal brazier, but the traditional hibachi was more central and useful to the Japanese household.
The word candy found its way into English as early as the 15th century. However, centuries passed before it came to be used as a standalone noun, as it did during the 17th century.
At first, it was used in a compound word, as sugar candy, a usage you will still hear occasionally.
You know the presidential oath by heart, I'm sure: "I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of big cheese of the United States, and will to the best of my ability…"
Although we don't use this expression much anymore, the president has been referred to as the big cheese. Or course, we may use the term to refer to anybody who is in charge, or who we consider a "big shot." If you work for a company, you may call the CEO the big cheese. What is the origin of this nickname?
Nosh can be a noun or a verb. A between-meal snack is a nosh. Or, if you are hungry but it's not yet dinner time, you can nosh. Sometimes, as well, a nosh is any food or meal. A nosher is someone who eats between meals or who has a sweet-tooth. It may also refer to someone who has a hard time controlling his appetite, such as when dieting.
To understand how the term dessert came about, we first have to be clear on what a dessert is and is not.
First, a dessert is not just another word for a sweet food. For example, if you eat a candy bar as a snack in the middle of the day, this is not a dessert. Dessert is the last part of a meal, and, it is usually sweet.
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."
Today, when we say "man does not live by bread alone" we simply mean that humans need more than the basic necessities to live, whatever those other things may be. Usually we are speaking of abstract "spiritual" needs as opposed to material ones. This expression is an ancient one, and actually comes from the the Bible.
The 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.
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.
A Three-martini lunch refers to a business lunch where martinis or other alcoholic cocktails are ordered. Since the lunch is business-related, it is used as a tax write-off, despite the fact that the martinis are a frivolous, expensive, and unnecessary addition to a lunch and are solely there to soften up the parties involved.
The term three-martini lunch therefore refers to wasteful and unnecessary business expenses for which other tax-payers foot the bill.
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?