Manspreading is the process in which a man sits on a public conveyance such as a bus or train with his legs spread wide apart in order to take as much space as possible and discourage other passengers from sitting close to him. The idea of men sitting on public conveyances with their legs spread very wide has been bandied about on the internet since 2008, but the New York blog AM New York was the first place where the term man spread was used, in 2014. The term proved very popular, and the noun … [Read more...]

Present company excepted vs present company accepted

Present company excepted is a phrase used when one makes a rude, overly general or critical remark to indicate that the rude, overly general or critical remark is not directed at the people currently in one's presence. In essence, present company excepted describes making an exception to one's statement, to exclude the present people from one's rude, overly general or critical remark. Present company excepted first appears in the latter 1700s. Present company accepted is a mondegreen, which … [Read more...]

The whole megillah

The whole megillah means the entirety of something, especially something that is an entanglement of intricate arrangements or a long, complicated story. The whole megillah is an American idiom taken from Yiddish. In Hebrew, the Megillah is one of five books read on special Jewish feast days. The Book of Esther, read on Purim, is especially long and complicated. A tedious and complicated story came to be called the gantse Megillah in Yiddish, which translates as the whole Megillah. The term … [Read more...]

Spur vs spurn

A spur is 1.) a small spike attached to a boot worn by horseback riders to be used to urge their horse onward or the act of using such a spike 2.) a spike on the back of a game bird's leg 3.) something that branches off from the main 4.) something that motivates action or the act of motivating an action. Spur may be used as a noun or a transitive verb, which is a verb that takes an object. Related words are spurs, spurred, spurring, spurless. Spur is derived from the Old English word spura, … [Read more...]

Rest vs wrest

Rest means 1.) to take a break from working 2.) to relax in order to refuel one's strength 3.) to lie in repose after death 4.) to stop discussion or investigation of a problem or topic 5.) to end arguments in a judicial case 6.) a musical notation that means a pause 7.) the remaining part of something 8.) to be left in a specific condition. Rest may be used as a noun or a transitive or intransitive verb, related words are rests, rested, resting. Rest is one of the top one thousand most … [Read more...]

Whole ball of wax

The whole ball of wax means the whole thing, everything. The whole ball of wax is an American idiom of uncertain origin, so far it has been traced back to at least the 1880s. Many apocryphal stories have sprung up to explain the origin of the phrase the whole ball of wax, but it is most likely a mondegreen of the idiom the whole bailiwick, meaning the whole territory. According to Google's Ngram, the popularity of the term the whole ball of wax has risen quickly since the 1960s, which coincides … [Read more...]

Segue vs Segway

Segue means to move from one song, melody, scene, story or topic to another in a smooth fashion, to make a transition without interruption. Segue is an intransitive verb, which is a verb that does not take an object. Related words are segues, segued, segueing. The word segue is derived from an Italian word used in musical scores, segue, which mean follows. Segue moved into the vernacular in the 1930s. A Segway is a self-balancing motorized vehicle that carries one person. The Segway was … [Read more...]

Brownie points

Brownie points are imaginary merit points awarded for the performance of good deeds or favors, it is usually a derogatory term. The singular form, brownie point, is rarely seen. The most probable source of the noun brownie point is the Girl Scout and Girl Guide rank of Brownie. Brownies were named for the helpful Scottish elf who secretly does chores for worthy humans. Brownie Girl Scouts and Girl Guides could earn merit badges by doing small tasks around the home, earning Brownie Points and … [Read more...]


The fleur-de-lis is a symbol of a lily with three petals, bound together at the base. Fleur-de-lis is taken directly from the French, it literally means flower of the lily. An alternate spelling is fleur-de-lys. According to Google's Ngram Viewer both spellings are found with approximately the same frequency, though the Oxford English Dictionary prefers the fleur-de-lis spelling. The plural forms are fleurs-de-lis and fleurs-de-lys. The fleur-de-lis was a heraldic emblem, it is most closely … [Read more...]

Go to ground

Go to ground means to hide, to become inaccessible, to disappear from the scene, often for a lengthy period of time. Originally, go to ground was a foxhunting term, meaning that the fox in question had escaped into a burrow or underground den. In the 1960s, the term go to ground was first used figuratively, to describe someone who has gone into hiding. Today, go to ground is often used when discussing sports or military concerns. Related terms are goes to ground, gone to ground, going to ground, … [Read more...]

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