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Friday, 11 March 2011






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Where words and phrases come from is a fascinating subject, full of folklore and historical lessons (continuing phrases beginning with E)

Eagle-eyed - very keen sighted

Origin -Legend has it that the eagle has the sharpest eyesight of all birds. The term eagle eye, is used to mean (keeping) a sharp watch on something.

Ear to the ground - aware of what is going on; alive to speculation, rumour, etc. Origin -This phrase is originated from the American Indian practice of putting one's ear to the ground in order to detect the vibration of approaching hooves before they can actually be heard.

Eat humble pie- to apologize and face humiliation for a serious error Origin -The expression derives from umble pie, which was a pie filled with liver, heart and other offal, of cow, deer or boar.

Umble evolved from numble, (after the French nomble) meaning 'deer's innards'. Umbles were considered inferior food; in medieval times the pie was often served to lower-class people

Eat your heart out - to worry or pine

Origin -The ancients in Greece believed that feeling of sorrow was bad for the heart, and would eat away at it, each sigh draining blood from the organ. By 18th century the idea had made its way to England. Shakespeare refers to it, as 'Might liquid tears, of heart-offending groans ...Look pale as primrose with blood-drinking sighs' (Henry VI).

Economical with the truth - deceitful

Origin -The phrase derives from a famous statement made by Edmund Burke, Anglo-Irish Statesman and philosopher (1729 - 1797) : "Falsehood and delusion are allowed in no case whatever: but, as in the exercise of all the virtues, there is an economy of truth. It is a sort of temperance, by which a man speaks truth with measure that he may speak it the longer."

Eleventh hour - Late; shortly before an anticipated event.

Origin -Matthew's Bible parable of the labourers in the vineyard has the men hired at the eleventh hour being paid as much as the ones hired early in the morning, even though the eleventh-hour people only worked for an hour. From this sense of being barely in time to receive some benefit comes the concept of time running out."

Every jot and tittle - every tiny detail

Origin -Jot is from the Latin iota, meaning the Greek letter i, the smallest in the alphabet. A jot is therefore a little bit, as is an iota. Tittle is a rare word meaning a small mark used in printing or writing; in jot or tittle it means the dot on the letter i and therefore merely reinforces the smallness implicit in jot.

Every man Jack - everyone without exception

Origin - Jack is a familiar, affectionate or diminutive version of John, perhaps the commonest British name, and occurs in numerous expressions to mean an ordinary man, fellow, chap, etc. Thus jack of all trades (person who does a variety of work), jack-in-the-box and cheap jack (man who travels about offering bargains for sale, now usually applied to person who sells goods which are cheap, shoddy or inferior), steeplejack (a labouring man), jackass (fool) and Jack Tar (sailor)


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