Psychopath vs. sociopath

While there is some debate in the world of psychology, clinically the terms psychopath (or its abbreviation psycho) and sociopath are relatively interchangeable. Both refer to a clinical diagnosis of someone without guilt, who also has violent tendencies and disregard for others and laws. The slang term psycho is used as an insult meaning something or someone is generally crazy. Examples Psychopath-sociopaths are neither wise nor conscientious, because they lack a capacity for empathy and … [Read more...]

Throw the baby out with the bathwater

To throw the baby out with the bathwater is an idiom which means to lose something important while trying to get rid of unwanted things. The idiom is undefined as to whether the act of discarding the 'baby' is intentional or unintentional. In other words, you could choose to throw away the valuable or accidentally lose it. The phrase is directly translated from a German proverb dating from at least 1512. In German it reads das Kind mit dem Bade ausschütten. It was paired with an illustration … [Read more...]

Cut off your nose to spite your face

The idiom to cut off your nose to spite your face means you shouldn't do something out of spite or revenge that will end up causing more harm to you than to the person with which you are angry. In other words, do not let your overreaction lead to self-harm. The phrase is not cut off your nose in spite of your face. History The exact idiom did not appear in print until the 1700's. However, the idea of causing yourself more harm than your enemy goes back as far as a Latin proverb in the year … [Read more...]

Happy camper

A happy camper is, shockingly, someone who is happy. While the term most likely existed at summer camps for years, the first time it was used in print to describe non-campers was a 1981 New York Times article. The article used the term to describe homeless people riding the city bus. By the very next year the phrase was adopted in the political arena and in television shows such as Silver Spoons. Since then it has made its way into most, if not all, English-speaking countries. A related … [Read more...]

Conflict of interest

conflict of interest

Legally, a conflict of interest is a conflict between a person's personally interests and their professional obligations. Generally, the phrase is used when it seems a person's personal interests interfere with an impersonal matter. The generally accepted plural is conflicts of interest; however, since the word is describing the situation and not the two interests involved it does not have a formal plural. The term is always used in the singular. Two or more persons would all have a … [Read more...]

Flip one’s lid vs. flip one’s wig

To flip one's lid and flip one's wig mean to suddenly lose control of yourself or your emotions, either in anger or excitement. The phrases are rarely used in the plural, but the generally accepted forms are flip their lids and flip their wigs. The verb flip is used in all its conjugations. Flipping your wig is more commonly found in the United States. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an old phrase, but was born in North America. The Oxford English Dictionary has the first print … [Read more...]

At the end of the day

At the end of the day is an idiom with several meanings. It can literally be the end of one's waking hours, or the end of one's work hours. The phrase can also be used in a summary statement to mean 'when all the information has been considered' or 'the most important part is'. A related phrase by the end of the day carries more of a deadline, but still can mean either the end of the work day or the end of one's waking hours. This phrase is also used without the deadline to talk of a future … [Read more...]

Hairy vs. harry

Hairy can mean either being covered in hair, or causing fear or difficulty. The word has carried this dual meaning since the middle of the 19th century. The word makes the forms hairier and hairiest. To harry is to persistently attack or harass. It has been around since before the 12th century. Its derivatives include harried, harries, and harrying. Examples Hairy pigs have been introduced to a Dorset nature reserve to improve the habitat for endangered birds species such as the Dartford … [Read more...]

Shenanigans

shenanigan

Shenanigans are silly or mischievous behaviors or activities. A shenanigan is a trick, usually of a questionable nature. Depending on the dictionary, the noun is listed as plural or in its singular form. It is used either way. It is pronounced \shə-ˈna-ni-gən\ (shi nan i gan) with both the e and the i producing the short i sound.  It was first used in the middle of the 19th century in California during the Gold Rush, but we don't actually know where it came from before that, which seems … [Read more...]

Yester

Now archaic, yester was an adjective to describe a time period in the past. Today it has been absorbed into the word yesterday, and is seen sometimes in the word yesteryear. Its other forms (yester-week, yester-hour, yester-month) have become so antiquated they are not listed in the dictionary. However, now and then they do appear in text, usually with a connotation of humor or acknowledgement of their age. Usage seems to suggest that most consider these compound nouns which deserve a hyphen. … [Read more...]

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