11th Jan 2023. Reading time 11 minutes.
also ‘to be all thumbs’—to be extremely clumsy (i.e., lacking in manual dexterity)—19th century—variants of the original phrase ‘each finger is a thumb’, already proverbial in the mid-16th century
24th Dec 2020. Reading time 14 minutes.
1546—originally designated the period of time following a wedding, and arose from the comparison of the mutual affection of newly-married persons to the changing moon, which is no sooner full than it begins to wane
16th Apr 2020. Reading time 6 minutes.
children are inclined to eavesdrop; used as a warning (“children are listening”)—USA, 1901—perhaps a modification of synonymous ‘little pitchers have big ears’
16th Oct 2018. Reading time 8 minutes.
1868, but late 16th century as ‘care [= disquiet] killed a cat’—the image is perhaps that disquiet would exhaust the nine lives allotted to a cat
28th Aug 2018. Reading time 5 minutes.
The image of one’s bread getting or being buttered has long been used to denote getting or having benefits, advantages.
24th Oct 2017. Reading time 6 minutes.
1711 in a letter by Jonathan Swift—perhaps from Ecclesiastes, 10:20: “a bird of the air shall carry the voice; and that which hath wings, shall tell the matter”
10th Oct 2017. Reading time 5 minutes.
mid-16th century—meaning: to wait for the death of a person with the expectancy of succeeding to his possessions or office; implies a futile wait
7th Oct 2017. Reading time 11 minutes.
late Middle English—early form of ‘Bethlehem’, originally referring to the Hospital of St. Mary of Bethlehem in London, used as an institution for the insane
20th Jul 2017. Reading time 6 minutes.
Origin: for purposes of fasting, food was divided into categories – ‘fish’, the flesh of fish, ‘flesh’, the flesh of land-animals, ‘fowl’, the flesh of birds.
17th Jun 2017. Reading time 12 minutes.
This phrase is a transformation of ‘one’s head full of bees’, meaning scatter-brained, unable to think straight, as if bees are buzzing around in one’s head.