What are you missing?

Perhaps you are one of thousands who have my first volume of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions and think you have enough. Well, here’s just a sample of the 1,000 plus new entries in Volume II with their origins:

All bark and no bite

At someone’s beck and call

Be a canary in a coal mine

Beware Greeks bearing gifts

Bless your heart!

Blood money

Blow (or toot) your own horn

Bound and determined

Breathing down someone’s neck

Brothers ion arms

Bum steer

Butter someone up

Call a spade a spade

Calm before the storm

Cardinal rule

Cat nap

Clean someone’s clock

Cock and bull story

Cold as Kraut

Cold hard facts

Conjure up

Cook the books

Cry all the way to the bank

A crying shame

Damaged goods

Darken someone’s door

The devil is in the detail

Digging up bones

Doing a number on someone

Don’t give up your day job

Drama queen

Draw a blank

Drop in the ocean

Dry up and blow away

Duke’s mixture

Dutch courage

Elephant in the room

Expect the best and plan for the worst

Fact is stranger than fiction

The fat’s in the fire

Feed a cold, starve a fever

Fess up!

First past the post

Five o’clock shadow

Flattery will get you nowhere / everywhere

Follow the money

For crying out loud!

From stem to stern

A gentleman and a scholar

Get a handle on something

Get the show on the road

A ghost of a chance

Give away the farm

Going rogue

Good things come in small packages

Grinning from ear to ear

Hard core

Hatched up

Have bigger fish to fry

HAve one’s mind in the gutter

Having eyes in the back of one’s head

Helicopter parent

He who hesitates is lost

Hidden in plain sight

Hog heaven

Hold down the fort

A hop, skip and a jump

Hot off the press

How’s that working out for you?


I can resist anything but temptation

If I’d known you were coming I would have baked you a cake

If you don’t like it you can lump it

I’ll be John Brown

In cahoots

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different result

IN the cold light of day

In the middle of nowhere

Well, I could obviously go on and on! But ‘You get the picture!’ If you don’t have the second volume you are missing a lot!

Both are available right now on Amazon worldwide.




Revisiting old friends and making new ones

In my quest for factual knowledge about the etymology and early citations of proverbs and idiomatic expressions for my books, I have been greatly enriched by revisiting old friends and making new ones. It has seemed even more intense than preparing a theses for a post graduate degree. In the past several months of research into hundreds of fresh phrases and their meanings and beginnings, I have revisited giants of literature like William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Alexander Pope, John Rey, etc, and found new individuals whom I had never explored, who contributed much to the rich history of the world and to our ever-evolving English tongue. One of these is French Huguenot courtier and poet, Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas, whose powerful His Divine Weekes and Workes were translated into English by Josuah Sylvester in 1641, From this work.we get the first known citation of ‘loud and clear’ which we have been told came into use only during World War II.   Then there is the Duke of Buckingham, who coined the phrase, ‘to die in the last ditch’ in the 17th century (sometimes attributed to Thomas Jefferson)  leading to our common expression, ‘last ditch effort’. Then there’s Henry Cockton, who in The Life and Adventures of Valentine Vox, Ventriloquist, 1840., used the term ‘I wasn’t born yesterday’ which a major slang dictionary tells us wasn’t coined until the late 19th or early 20th century. And the list goes on.

But each of you may experience a portion of this wonder for yourselves by getting a copy of my first volume of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions at stclairpublications.com, or any Amazon site worldwide. After you have thoroughly read those 740 pages, before year’s end, I hope to have this second exciting volume out!  I hope you enjoy them half as much as I still am.

Hard at work

I’ve not done much on blog entries lately. That’s because it is a busy time. First, I’ve been busy taking and completing orders on the website, largely for copies of Gerald Sinclair’s factual historic tome, The Enigmatic Sinclairs, Volume One, but others as well; authors order this time of year for book signings and Christmas presents. Most books are drop shipped from the printer, but some are shipped out from here, and some are sold locally, particularly my own books. Which brings me to my other point. I have also been hard at work on a second volume of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and FIgurative Expressions. My goal is to have 1000 new entries in this one. But it will not be ready for a year or so, and the first volume is a must before getting this one. My good friend in England, Niven Sinclair, has sent me hundreds of British sayings from time to time, and my radio friend, Kelly Marlow, who uses the book on-air at least twice a month, reading and encouraging others to call in (he did this of his own free will at no cost because he is so into the book) is also getting me Americanisms not in the first one. Then every day I manage to come up with several on my own. I love this quest so much that I lose track of time while working on it. I have been surprised at the number once again which major sources came up with incorrect earliest origins for. And the origin of one of them, ‘Bound and determined‘, seemed so ‘shrouded in mystery’ that it seemed no one else had ‘taken a stab’ at it. I spent a lot of time on it and believe I may have unlocked that mystery. I have 121 of the phrases completed, and if all goes well, this new book should be ready within the next year! In the meantime, if you haven’t done so yet, get your copy of the book being used by numerous authors, teachers, ministers and public speakers, (and plenty of average folks) which is in severals college libraries across the country and has sold around the globe. If you have yours, get a copy or three for gifts! Get it at St. Clair Publications site or any Amazon site in the US, Canada, Europe or India.

Another Comic Strip Salutes a Proverb

As many of you know, I love reading the “intelligence page” (another cliche) of our local paper. Now that we’ve been subscribing for the past several months, I even glance at the small ones on the puzzle page. This morning The Born Loser, one of my favorite strips, had Thornapple saying to his wife, “They say an apple a day keeps the doctor a day, right?” Then he says, “So, what would happen if I ate two apples a day?”

His wife’s expression remained nonchalant as she replied, “You’d get diarrhea.”

The origin of this well-known proverb is found in Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions on page 25:

 apple a day keeps the doctor away, An

Reference to this was initially found in a Welsh folk proverb.”Eat an apple on going to bed, and you’ll keep the doctor from eating his bread.” The phrase was first coined as we know it in the U.S. in 1913 by Elizabeth Wright in Rustic Speech and Folk-lore

“Ait a happle avore gwain to bed, An’ you’ll make the doctor beg his bread; or as the more popular version runs: An apple a day Keeps the doctor away.” 

Sales of this popular book continue each and every month, Get yours today at



Family Circus Weighs in on Clichés

Our local Sunday paper featured a Family Circus cartoon in which the mother is on the phone. “After Mother’s Day I always find it difficult to get back down to earth,” she says. Standing at her side is her small son who pictures a space capsule floating from the heavens.

I immediately went to my book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Clichés, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions and looked up the old expression, “Down to Earth.” Here’s what’s recorded there:

Down to earth

Meaning practical and easy to understand for the everyday person, this cliché is from about the 1930s as no printed citation appears earlier than 1932. It most likely came into being as a result of the screenplay and motion picture that year, Down to Earth, by Homer Croy with screenplay by Edward Burke.    

At every book signing I have no matter how many of these books I take, I always manage to sell out. The recent Warren County Genealogical Society signing and the one at the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival were no exceptions. I guess I just don’t order enough copies from my printer.

In the meantime, they sell extremely well on Amazon. You can order a copy there today if you haven’t already, either the latest version in paperback or the original on Kindle. Thank you all for reading my blog, and have a marvelous day!


How many sources missed the mark

When I began researching phrase origins four years ago, I was really surprised at how many sources were incorrect on the origins of popular sayings and expressions. So much so that it prompted me to start collecting the most proper origins and begin publishing them. My initial book, titled On the Origin of the Cliches and Evolution of Idioms was released in 2011. After a number of people found it useful, but kept asking me to research other sayings, I assembled a second volume which I labeled All New Volume II. 

But my research never stopped. Last March I released Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, a 730 page volume containing all of the original entries of both books and hundreds more, sans pictures and personal remarks. It was on larger pages in smaller print. Then early this month I added 75 more, mostly by reformatting the entire book.

Below I will list only three of many improper findings in other publications.

can of worms, A

This metaphor is based on cans of worms which were sold for fish bait in the U.S. in the 1950s. Once they were opened, it was very hard to get the can shut so that the worms could not escape. Opening or getting into a can of worms became a figurative expression for bringing to light a matter which caused more problems than it did good and was not easily resolved. In spite of claims by other sources that the earliest citation is from 1955, The Bulletin for Atomic Scientists, January, 1951, page 6, contains the following figurative connotation in “An address (by Robert J. Oppenheimer) delivered to the Awards Banquet of the Science Talent Institute in Washington, D.C., March 6, 1950”:

“Perhaps nowhere has the impact of science more clearly altered the specific terms of a great political issue in the effects of political development on warfare. This is a can of worms with which I have myself unhappily been engaged for some years. It would not be honest to say— though it would not be foolish to hope— that the very terror of modem weapons would in itself put an end to war…”                                                                                                                                

Go off the deep end

Figuratively this means to become irrational in ones thoughts and act on those feelings without regard to responsibility. It is taken from jumping into the deepest part of a swimming pool, especially where the water is over ones head and the person is unable to swim. The earliest known citation, in spite of other published origins in the early 1920s, is in an article titled The Desert Air by Dornford Yates in The Windsor Magazine, August, 1919:

“‘They’re all right, as a rule,’ Berry was saying, ‘but every now and then they go off the deep end.’” 


 Happy camper

This modern metaphoric expression is applied to someone who is content with their present situation, and is likely used sarcastically in the negative more than the positive. In spite of numerous claims that it originated on a 1982 episode of Silver Spoons when Ricky (Schroder) and his grandfather went on a camping trip, there are two flaws in this. First, it was already in use at least a year earlier; second, the Silver Spoons use is a literal reference to camping.

Though it is likely that in a literal sense it started in summer camps earlier, the first citation of the phrase ‘happy campers’ in a non-camping context is from an article by David Bird in The New York Times regarding homeless men in 1981:

“It is not a group of happy campers that gets off the bus.”

Am I also subject to error? For sure. I just dug deeper. If anyone finds any entry in my book wrong, please leave me a message on my blog. It will be corrected in future printings.

Did you ever wonder why we say Kudos?

The new revised edition of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions has a great variety of new entries. Some have been around for centuries, like “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder;” some have come about as a result of modern adaptation, such as “Arm Candy.”

Some even reveal the etymology of unusual words which are used to express our feelings, like “Kudos.” Didn’t you ever wonder where this expression originated? Well, I’m about to tell you, as it is in the new version of my popular book.

Kudos *

This expression is singular, not plural as some have mistakenly supposed. It came from the Greek kydos, meaning honor, glory or praise, and entered into British university slang in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth century. The earliest known English citation in this vein is the January, 1794 edition of Anthologia Hibernica, Dublin:

“Bassett expects kudos from the dean this term; but I think he will be badger’d for not attending Hornlby.”

It first appeared in America in the early twentieth century. It was in British author, Florence Luisa Barclay’s The Mistress of Shenstone, published both by G. P Putnam in England and by Grosset and Dunlap in New York in 1910, where it was found on page 181:

“…then the powers-that-be have a way of taking all the kudos…”

In the 1920s and ‘30s, Time Magazine cited it frequently, thus popularizing it in the U.S.

End book entry. In all, there are 76 new entries. Order you paperback copy today at http://stclairpublications.com or on Amazon anywhere in the world.


On one Amazon.com search we’re number one

I know that when an author searches online for one of his or her books, it will likely show in a favorable position. That’s why I asked someone else to do this search. Now, you may try and see if you get the same result. Search Amazon.com books using the topic cliche origins. Guess what! My three books on the subject are all in the top ten. Something no other author on this subject can claim (even though I have retired one of them). And my first one, On the Origin of the Cliches and Evolution of Idioms comes in at number one! I’m quite sure that’s because it has sold so well consistantly. The new book just hasn’t been properly discovered yet, and should be the standard bearer for this genre for a number of years.  

Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions comes in number 6. It is a 730 page, small print, wide margin volume with a virtual library of common phrases, old sayings and metaphors, with most likely origins; most with early citations and all with definitions. The work includes all of the information in the first two, and more additional ones than the other two combined. For the serious student of the history of the English Language, this book is a must library reference. Order it today at http://stclairpublications.com or on any Amazon site in the US, Europe or India.