Big cheese

A big cheese is the head man or woman, the most important person of the group, the person who commands the most influence. This peculiar phrase invoking the word cheese probably stems from borrowing the Hindi word chiz from India. Chiz translates as thing. In nineteenth-century Britain, a slang term for something that was genuine or first-rate was referred to as the real thing. As British and Indian culture bumped against each other, the word chiz became a substitute for the word thing in the … [Read more...]

Knew vs new

Knew is the past tense of the verb know, which means to be certain of a particular truth or fact, to be acquainted or familiar with, to understand or experience. Related words are knows, knowing, knowable. Knew comes from the Old English word cneow, the past tense of the Old English word cnawan, which means to know, to acknowledge, to declare. New means fresh, not previously in existence, recently invented or discovered. New may also mean unused or not previously owned. New is primarily used … [Read more...]


Malarkey means foolish talk, nonsense. Malarkey, sometimes spelled as malarky, is an American word. The exact etymology of the word malarkey is unknown. Many assume malarkey is an Irish-American word that is somehow related to the Irish surname, Mullarkey, but a direct link is yet to be established. In any case, the word malarkey appears in the United States in the 1920s and is made popular by the cartoonist T A Dorgan, an Irish-American. Interestingly, his original spelling of the word was … [Read more...]

More vs moor

More means to a greater degree, an additional amount, to a larger extent. More is  the comparative of much or many. More may be used as a determiner, which is a word placed in front of a noun to clarify what the noun refers to. More is also used as a pronoun and as an adverb. More is one of the top one thousand frequently used words in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. More is derived from the Old English word mara, which means greater, more, stronger, … [Read more...]

Pearls of wisdom

Pearls of wisdom is a description of wise advice, concise pieces of sagacity that are metaphorically as precious as pearls. Originally, pearls of wisdom referred to bits of information or advice that the receiver truly found precious. Today, referring to information or advice one receives as pearls of wisdom is often, but not always, sarcastic, as the phrase is now considered a terrible cliché. The term pearls of wisdom dates back at least to the early 1800s, though the idea of comparing wisdom … [Read more...]

Lock, stock and barrel

Lock, stock and barrel means everything, the whole thing. The term lock, stock and barrel refers to the parts of a gun. There are three major parts of a gun, the lock or firing mechanism, the stock or wood handle, and the barrel which the bullet travels through. If one has a lock, stock and barrel, then one has everything that makes up a gun. In time, the phrase came to be used figuratively to mean the whole thing. The earliest use of the phrase lock, stock and barrel to mean everything or the … [Read more...]

Polite company and polite society

Polite company refers to a group of people who are respectable, who conform to norms of behavior and language that are inoffensive to others in society. Originally, polite company referred to socially superior people. Today, polite company is used more to describe a group of people that adheres to behavior and language that cannot be construed as provocative. Polite society also refers to a group of people who conform to the norms of behavior and language that are inoffensive to others in … [Read more...]

Smartphone vs smart phone

A smartphone is a mobile phone that not only functions as a telephone but also as a miniature computer, featuring messaging, internet access, camera, GPS, etc. Smartphones generally use touchscreen technology. The idea of a smartphone was proposed by Nikola Tesla, however the first true smartphones didn’t show up until the end of the century. The first use of the term smart phone appeared in 1995 to describe the PhoneWriter Communicator make by AT&T. The smartphone revolution really began … [Read more...]

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

The phrase beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that different people have different opinions as to what should be deemed attractive. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder means that beauty is subjective. Whether or not beauty is subjective has been debated at least since ancient Greece. Shakespeare wrote of beauty in Love’s Labour Lost, saying “Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye…” Benjamin Franklin wrote “Beauty, like supreme dominion/Is but supported by opinion,” in Poor Richard’s … [Read more...]

Bisect vs dissect

Bisect means to divide into two parts equal parts, to cut in two. Bisect comes from the prefix bi- which means two, and the Latin word sect, derived from the word secare which means to cut. Related words are bisects, bisected, bisecting, bisection, bisector. Dissect means means to cut apart methodically in order to learn about the internal workings of something, especially a dead animal or plant. Dissect is also used figuratively to mean to analyze something piece by piece. Dissect comes from … [Read more...]

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