If you are only looking for cute anecdotes, don’t buy my books

“To be great is to be a nonconformist” is one of the entries in my new book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, Volume II,  being released on August 25. This is actually a misquote of Ralph Waldo Emerson, nevertheless, it contains much truth. Some nonconformists actually have little to offer, but among them have arisen those who have “turned the world upside down” (another saying from the book).

On Amazon.com, 19 people have posted reviews of the original volume of this book. Of those, 15 have been five stars. The other three ‘just didn’t get it.’ One didn’t like it because it didn’t consist of all cute little anecdotes. Another didn’t  like the fact that some expressions were not included. The other said there was ‘no index,’ thus he could not use it as a reference.

Give me a break…Oh, yes, that one’s in the first book. The very reason that some may not appreciate this work which took many years of research is that it IS NOT just cute stories. In origins, these are the commonly passed down myths about how something started. If this is what you are looking for, please don’t bother to buy one of these books. I spent all the thousands of hours in research because all I want is truth.  I plainly stated in thee introduction to the first book that all phrases could not be included in one volume. I can only print so many pages at a time. And what about an index? These are dictionaries. No dictionary has an index. They are in alphabetical order!  If you want to find out the most likely origins of the things we say every day, do buy my books. Thousands have loved them. I appreciate all of those who do!

Do you want the bad news first, or the good news?

We have all heard this when we could find a way to ‘turn lemons into lemonade’ (there’s an entry on that in my big book). Lately a bunch of negatives have popped up in my life, as they have in the past. First my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and when she had surgery it had gone into her lymph nodes. She found out that she would also be facing chemo and radiation. Where’s the good in that, right? But, as always, there has been good. Her subsequent tests showed that if there were any more hot spots, they were microscopic. Also, many friends have shown great care, with bringing food and sending gifts, and offering their prayers and positive thoughts.

My smart phone has been freezing up, so I had to take it to the store yesterday an hour drive from home. The good news was that it was under warranty and a new one has been ordered for me. I needed a new case, so I got it while I was there. That’s good.

I had bought a new lawn tractor last year when the old one finally ‘gave up the ghost ‘. That’s on page 211 in my book. It’s been less than a year, and as I was mowing this morning, the gears quit engaging. No good there, right? Well, I called the store, and the service man was only 10 minutes away and came right out and reconnected the drive belt (also under warranty). I went ahead and purchased a 2 year extended warranty, so I won’t have to be concerned about huge repair bills for over two more years. And items which are not covered, I’ll get a 25% discount on.

Most people would be ‘crying foul’ but I am thankful that ‘all’s well that ends well.’  That’s on page 17 of my book. My regulars probably all have a copy. But if you don’t, now is the time to get it! Go to my website at http://stclairpublications,com and order it, and the first two to order there will get a personally signed copy direct from me! On October 1, the second volume of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions will be out with over 1,000 new entries with definitions and most likely origins, plus early citations.

Have you ever drawn a blank?

Have you ever been asked a difficult question and you just ‘drew a blank’? Most of us have, so ‘Don’t feel like the lone ranger’ Have you ever wondered where that metaphoric expression originated and how it came to be used the way it is today?

In my best-selling reference book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches. Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, which is in numerous public and university libraries across America, I listed over 1500 expressions and located the most likely origins, most with early citations, and many of which I was able to prove other researchers findings were not correct. ‘Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger is just one of those. But after the publication, and even two revisions of that book, I found so many more which really need to be explained, many of which were also incorrect in some other well respected and much used sources. One that was very interesting was ‘Draw a blank.’ Here is a sneak preview from my upcoming Volume II of Most Comprehensive Origins… to be released this October:

Draw a blank                                                                                                                                           

This is a very old idiom in the English language, stemming from British lotteries set up in Tudor England under Elizabeth I in 1567. Tickets with the names of purchasers were put into a ‘lot pot’. Another pot held slips of paper, some with prizes written on them, others blank. A name would be drawn, then a paper from the prize pot. Those who drew the blank papers were said to have ‘drawn a blank.’

Lotteries continued and in July, 1786, The Scotts Magazine, in ‘Parliament: Commons on the Greenland Fishery’ uses the term about the lottery:

“…his lot was equal to a 20,000 L prize in the lottery; whilst another, who chanced to fail of success, was like a man who drew a blank.

This usage continued through the 19th century, and into the 20th. The phrase, however, had been in print even earlier, in A Commentary upon the Fourth Book of Moses, Called Numbers by Simon, Lord Bishop of Ely, 1699, page 193:

“Then mixing all these in an Urn, he nad them come and draw: And. to every one who drew a Schedule, that had the Name of Elder in it, he said, God hath sanctified thee but to him that drew a Blank, he said, God hath not chosen thee.”

In Glenlonely; or, The Daemon Friend, Volume 3 by William Henry De Merle, 1839, the phrase is used figuratively of Sir Bruce Crawford’s quest for marriage (all marriage being ‘a lottery’ was voiced by Queen Victoria) on page 171:

“About three years after his divorce, he once more decided on the lottery of marriage: in England he had drawn a blank; in France he was more fortunate. Miss St. Clair was all that could add to the happiness of man; but, alas! how rarely does it happen that they who win the purest gems are allowed to wear them long…”

Note: another metaphor was employed in speaking of women as ‘the purest gems’, and being married as ‘wearing them’.

It was the 1930s before ‘draw a blank’ came into common figurative use. In Princeton Alumni Weekly, April 20, 1937 in ‘The Thumbnail Sketch’, number 130 by H.G. Murray on page 11:

“This after the college police and town force had drawn a blank. Ned simply strolled around the purlieus of the burgh, saw his suit on a mucker, and in the parlance of the local press, ‘apprehended the criminal.’”

2 Most Comprehensive cover

Off and On… amazing how many there are!

As those of you who follow my blog know, I am well into creating my second volume of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, It is my plan to have it ready to release this coming October. In order to do this it takes long, tedious hours of research and work. It continues to keep my ‘on my toes’. In the first volume, I researched and expounded upon numerous ‘Off and On’ phrases, like Off the cuff, Off the top of my head, On again, off again, On a roll, On a shoestring, On cloud nine, On one’s toes, On shaky ground, On the lam, On the other hand,  On the same page, On the tip of my tongue, and On the warpath. It would seem that the phrases would run out…but, believe it or not, they seem to go On and on. The off phrases don’t seem so endless. I picked up Off one’s feed, Off one’s rocker, and Off the grid. But watch out! Hold ON to your hat! (another one in the new book). Volume two has On edge, On a fast track, On a short leash, On someone’s dime, On, at or to someone’s doorstep, On the blink, On the button, On the edge of one’s seat, On the flip side, On the fritz, On or in the hot seat, On the QT, and On the wrong side of history, and I’m ‘here to tell you’ that this book is not only On the right side of history, it’s On the cutting edge of this genre in books.ant there are over 1000 more besides these!,Just make sure you own the first one first, Don’t ‘get the cart before the horse’ (that’s in the first book). This one is cross referenced with the first book, and has slight variations of some phrases just in case someone looks it up under that version, which refers the reader to the other version. I honestly believe it is more comprehensive than the original, but both are needed to see ‘The big picture.’ Stay tuned for updates!

2 Most Comprehensive cover




Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem

It seems that all we see on the news headlines are more examples of violence, political and religious extremism and racism, one way or another. I’ve often expressed my disdain for all of these attitudes and actions.

Sometimes people are so set that their view is right that they don’t consider other views    “A mind is like an umbrella: it only works when it’s open.” That’s a good saying.

History has been filled by those so hellbent on forcing others to believe the way they do that they used force to elicit change. The enemy of peace is prejudice and extremism. There is another old adage, “Convince a man against his will and he’s of the same opinion still.”

So instead of burning down a business because of something those folks had nothing to do with or beheading someone because they don’t convert to your brand of religion, why not work to educate folks and look at all the facts without “flying off the handle.”

And to learn the meanings and origins of your favorite sayings, order a copy of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions on any Amazon site in the world. They have copies in stock and ready to mail! It also makes a great gift.


It’s time to “let the cat out of the bag”

Last Saturday I told my readers that today I was going to make a major announcement concerning my popular phrase origin dictionary, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions. Well, true to my word, I am now “spilling the beans.”

I have been so honored by the great comments that folks have posted on Amazon about this book, and the fact that my friend, Kelly, a local radio personality, has constantly used entries the book on his morning radio show, that I felt like I would make another effort to show my appreciation by updating future printings to include 75 plus new entries. Today I approved the new updated version with the printer, and it is now available.

Just to give a little glimpse into what is now in it, such old standards as ‘air one’s dirty laundry in public’, ‘blow the whistle on someone’, ‘cardinal sin’, ‘bite off more than one can chew’, ‘charity begins at home’, ‘cold feet’, ‘eat your heart out’, ‘a fly in the ointment’, ‘get above one’s raising’, ‘in the pink’, ‘kudos’, ‘pipe dream’, ‘scared the bejeebees out of me’, and lots more are now in the new paperback.

Also, I have added such modern expressions as ‘arm candy’, ‘blood in the water’, ‘déjà vu all over again’,  ’a grand jury will indict a ham sandwich’, ‘hang ten’, ‘not ready for prime time’, ‘not so much’, ‘raising eyebrows’, ‘Rocky Mountain High’,  ’self-fulfilling prophecy’, ‘train wreck’, ‘who died and made you God?’ and many more.

The amazing fact is that I was able to accomplish this by shortening only about three lengthy entries and reformatting the entire manuscript, thus only enlarging it by 4 pages and leaving the price the same. I also found a few out of alphabetical sequence a bit and corrected them. Additionally, I changed the cover from glossy finish to matte. So all of the ones with matte finish are the new ones! The inexpensive Kindle version is unchanged.

So what about those who own the previous version, you may ask, who want the updates? Gotcha covered! I will provide a printed copy of all the new entries via snail mail for only $5.00 including postage to all who request it sending check or money order to St. Clair Publications P.O. Box 726, McMinnville, TN 37111. Those wanting a PDF digital copy of the updates may receive it by email attachment by sending only $1 via PayPal to stanstclair46@yahoo.com.

All ordering from http://stclairpublications.com will immediately receive the new version. Those ordering from amazon also should, but there it may take a few days before all old copies in stock are sent out.

Happy reading!

An eye for an eye? Where did this really come from?

There are a lot of people who obviously think this saying, and teaching came from Christianity, or more likely, from ancient Judaism. Some may even think it originated with Islam. None of this is true.

On page 171 of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions you will find the following explanation:

eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, An  

This is an ancient Babylonian philosophy and legal code called the Code of Hammurabi (1780 B.C.). ‘An eye for an eye’ is found in several passages in the Hebrew Bible, and refers to just punishment based on the crime.  This principle has been a basic factor considered in the formation of laws of countries for thousands of years, including Judaism, ancient Roman law, British Common Law, and a consideration in the American Justice System.

Jesus, however, is quoted as saying in the ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” (Mathew 5:38-39, RSV)

The sentiments of Jesus have been carried forward by modern non conformists.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “An-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye-for-an-eye … ends in making everybody blind.” – Louis Fischer, The Yale book of quotations, Fred R. Shapiro, 2006

Martin Luther King concurred with Gandhi when he later used this phrase in the context of racial violence: “The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.” – The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Coretta Scott King

This book, containing many hundreds of phrase, proverb and expression origins is available on Amazon worldwide in both paperback and Kindle e-book, as well as on http://stclairpublications.com.

Knowing which side your bread is buttered on

How many times have you heard someone say, “I know which side my bread is buttered on”? Or perhaps used this metaphor in relation to someone else?

Did you ever wonder where that came from? My popular book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions has the answer to this and hundreds of other phrase origins. This is on page 320 to 321:

Knowing which side one’s bread is buttered on

This was passed down by John Heywood in A dialogue conteinying the number in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, 1546:

I knowe on whiche syde my breade is buttred.”

It means ‘I know where my loyalty lies. I realize who is responsible for my good fortune, and I will show that person or persons the greatest of respect.’ 


This 730 page tome has been called ‘remarkable’, ‘compelling’, ‘in-depth’ and ‘the best (book) of its kind’.

It would make a nice gift for that studious loved one on your Christmas list…or a special gift to yourself. It is available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon worldwide.

The pen is mightier than the sword

It was pleasing to me to find that while I was away for the past several days visiting family and doing research for a new book, that folks were still clicking on my blog and buying our books.

The world is full of strife, and if that’s what you want to hear about and meditate upon, our news media will be happy to hand you plenty of fuel for the flame of anxiety and greed. Newspapers and television sell their products by honing in on the gross atrocities which surround us.

At St. Clair Publications we want to give you an alternative. Why not relax and order your copy of Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, and at the bottom of page 416 you will see this:

pen is mightier than the sword, The

This metonymic adage was coined by British author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in Act II, Scene ii of his 1839 play, Richelieu loosely based on a cardinal by that name:

“True, This! —
Beneath the rule of men entirely great,
The pen is mightier than the sword.”


I much prefer the pen to the sword (or terror plot, murder, storm or pestilence). But even the pen (or computer) can do both harm and good.

For today, why not meditate upon the good.

I could never imagine

When I began the long years I was to expend researching cliches, proverbs, and figures of speech I did not imagine that I would, indeed, eventually be viewed as an expert in this field. Granted, I did a most careful and deep study of this fascinating field. The more I delved into it, the more I realized just how much information had not been uncovered by others in printed books. I found that so many of our common catchphrases were misquotes, either phrased wrongly or accredited to an individual who was merely passing it down from others. Other expressions were misunderstood or incorrectly placed in time of their genesis. Another shortcoming of most phrase dictionaries is the fact that they attempt to identify the time of origin with no definitive specific early citations. This plunged me onward to a more precise understanding of the true origins of phrases and old sayings which are so utilized that we never think about how they got started.

My initial offering was On the Origin of the Cliches and Evolution of Idioms, which was published in September, 2011. Over the past year and a half, that volume often ranked number three on Amazon of ‘cliche origin books.’ Then in 2012 I released a second volume of this title with all new phrases. Still, my research took no vacation, for I was woefully short in identifying expressions which needed to be included.

Then only recently, after many months of additional research, i took the entries of both books, and more than doubled this amount, enlarging the physical size from 5.5 inches by 8.5 inches to 6 X 9, making the font smaller and the margins wider, and removing personal references and illustrations, and with my wife and eldest son’s edits, and my good friend and associate, Kent Hesselbein creating a masterpiece cover, came up with a 710 page tome that served to provide my ultimate in this genre. Though it would take a library to hold all of our English catchphrases, this one is as close as one could come in this size volume when considering the average length of entry.

What amazed me is that not only is this book taking off in sales, even the first book is still selling. The final product is titled, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions. Own it today in paperback or Kindle.