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American phrases

Posted by John Semion on June 04, 1999

In Reply to: American phrases posted by E. Smith-Carroll on May 29, 1999

I concur that, except for 23 skidoo, all of these phrases are in current use. I can add a couple of bits of information.

"23 skidoo" means scram, beat it, go away. I think I've heard the origin, but I don't recall what it was.

"Cup of Joe" is pretty common in the San Francisco area, enough so that until recently there was a coffee house nearby named "Cuppa Joe". It's also pretty much the only phrase used for "cup of coffee" by a friend who grew up in Mississippi, and sounds like it.

"Hang ten" I'm not familiar with any use of this phrase other than its literal one. An expert surfer, having caught a wave and stood up on the board, can sometimes move to the front of the board and hang all ten toes over the edge, a physical feat requiring skill and generally luck as well.

"Get your ducks in a row." I don't think there's much of an inconsistency between the current usage and the origin described. The original point of getting your ducks in a row was to allow someone to roll a bowling ball at them. A straightforward extension is the desire to be properly prepared for an upcoming event.

I've always assumed that the origin of "druthers" is a corruption of "I'd rather". Thus "If I had my druthers" means "If I got to do what I'd rather do". I've never seen that documented, though.

Thanks for an interesting and useful site.