03/04/2022 Cliche’s   Leave a comment

The English language has flourished over the centuries and new words and expressions have creeped into the lexicon all the time. I’ve been fortunate, I think, to have traveled across the United States many times during my career. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the sayings or clichés that were the same but had totally different meanings depending on the area of the country. I’m going to give you a few examples today that you’ve likely heard many times in your life but never knew the origins of them. I found some of this information really interesting, I hope you did too.


This depressing phrase is applied to a development that makes the situation progressively worse. The “final nail” can also be compared with the “last straw”, but the meaning remains the same. This saying was originally adopted by smokers as early as the 1920s. They referred to cigarettes as “coffin nails” and this expression became the stock response when someone accepted yet another cigarette. At the time they were referring to the hazards of a smoker’s cough; the links between smoking, cancer and heart disease were only recognized later (when cigarettes earned another wonderful nickname, “cancer sticks”).


This cliché is said to describe an excessively restless or over-eager person. The US Army General, Hugh S. Johnson, was in charge of the National Recovery Administration (NRA) In 1933 for FDR. He said of the NRA general counsel, Donald Richburg: “Donald’s agitation is just a symptom of the ants of conscience in his pants.”


It is the main point of an argument, the basic characteristic of something, the actual value of a financial deal, or the truth of the matter. The phrase itself was originally an accounting term and referred to the figure at the end of a financial statement, indicating the net profit or loss of the company. The term gained wide usage during the 1970s, possibly because of its frequent use by Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. He often spoke of “the bottom line” as the eventual outcome of a negotiation – ignoring the distraction of any incidental details.


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