Busting Your Chops – Idiom, Origin & Meaning

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Here’s a juicy pair of idioms for you to chew on: bust my chops versus lick my chops. They could be related, right? Surely, a strange duo of meat-themed idioms must mean similar things. Well, hold onto your mutton because you’re in for a surprise.

Bust My Chops vs. Lick My Chops: What’s the Diff?

Busting Your Chops Idiom Origin Meaning

Despite their similar names, bust my chops and lick my chops couldn’t be more different. The former refers to giving someone a hard time or hassling them. It can also be used to describe someone giving too much effort to something.

Licking my chops describes eagerly anticipating something, usually a delicious meal. You might lick your chops over a juicy steak, but if someone is busting your chops, they’re not making your life easy!

Licking Your Chops Meaning Explained

Bust My Chops vs Lick My Chops Ngram
Bust my chops and lick my chops usage trend.

If you’re licking your chops, it means you’re eagerly anticipating or relishing the thought of something. The phrase came about much earlier than the other one we’re discussing. It originated during the 1800s from the natural behavior of animals who literally lick their chops (mouths) in anticipation of a meal.

Bust My Chops Meaning Explained

Bust My Chops Ngram
Bust my chops usage trend.

To bust someone’s chops means to give them a hard time, hassle or criticize them. It’s an American phrase that originated sometime in the 1950s or 1960s, possibly in reference to being hit in the actual jaw or, as some say, “chops.”

What Is a Synonym for Licking Chops?

You wouldn’t think there are many, but there are a few ways you can express this idea without saying the word lick.

  • Salivating over
  • Drooling over
  • Relishing
  • Looking forward to
  • Anticipating eagerly

What Is a Synonym for Busting Chops?

After looking at these synonyms, you’ll definitely see just how different the two phrases are.

  • Nagging
  • Hassling
  • Bothering
  • Badgering
  • Harassing

Licking Your Chops Examples in a Sentence

  • I’m licking my chops at the thought of our vacation next month.
  • Look at him, licking his chops over that new car.
  • We were all licking our chops at the smell of my mom’s homemade apple pie.
  • She’s been licking her chops about the promotion.
  • The team was licking their chops in anticipation of the championship game.

Busting Your Chops Examples in a Sentence

Busting Your Chops Idiom Origin Meaning 1
  • Don’t bust my chops; I already said I was sorry.
  • He’s always busting our chops about deadlines.
  • I’m not trying to bust your chops, but you really need to focus on your work and finish that book.
  • They’re just busting your chops; don’t take it too seriously.
  • Stop busting my chops over something so trivial, and get over it!

Busting or Licking: Now You Know

Whether you’re licking your chops over a succulent steak or someone’s busting your chops over missed deadlines, you’re now equipped to use these idioms easily. Never forget that English is a smorgasbord of delightfully odd expressions—these are just the chops on top! So dig in, and don’t let anyone bust your chops over your idiom use!