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Re: Books

Posted by ESC on October 17, 2000

In Reply to: Re: Thanks- where do I go from here? posted by ESC on October 17, 2000

: : Thanks for helping out with 'get ones back up'... seems every week, my daughter has an assignment to find the meaning and origin of expressions/cliches. What are good resources to have on hand to look these up? I've found a few sites on the web, this being the best! Other ones we had to look up are 'faster than greased lightening' (Boston newspaper re: fast talker) and 'straight from the horses mouth' (supposed inner racetrack circles...) .

: : thanks again!
: : Vinnie

: Your local library is always a good resource. In my area, the librarians will do "look ups" that are phoned in. Here on Phrase Finder, there are three ways of researching a phrase meaning. You may search the Search for a Phrase database of phrases and the Discussion Forum archives that Gary, the site owner, has created. If your search comes up zero, you can post an inquiry here on the Discussion Forum.

: GREASED LIGHTENING -- "Lightning is fast enough, striking before it can be heard, but 'greased lightening!' Why, this is the kind of American exaggeration for emphasis that British grammarians sneered about all through the 19th century. Americans surely are a hyperbolic people, but the trouble here is that 'like greased lightening,' 'faster than anything,' is a British expression, despite some disclaimers. At least it first appeared in the 'Boston, Lincoln, and Louth Herald' of January 15, 1833. The hyperbole is of course not to be taken seriously." From the "Encyclopedia of Words and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: Does anyone know where the "Boston, Lincoln and Louth Herald" was published? I am assuming that it must be in Britain.

: STRAIGHT FROM THE HORSE'S MOUTH -- "By examining a horse's teeth an expert can make a good estimation of its age; a horse's first permanent teeth, for example, don't appear until it is about two and a half years old. So despite what any crooked horse trader might have wished them to believe, informed horsemen in England stood little chance of being cheated about a horse's age -- they had it on good authority, 'straight from the horse's mouth.' The expression came into racetrack use in about 1830 and was part of everyday speech by 1900." From the "Encyclopedia of Words and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

I just re-read your post. There are hundreds of wonderful word and phrase origin books. Here are three, available at or your favorite independent bookstore.

"Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988). $30.40

"Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997). $19.96 in paperback.

"2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions from White Elephants to Song Dance ," a collection in one volume of four books by by Charles Earle Funk. $16.99