Newly Revised eBook Now Avialable!

I would like to congratulate my Editor In Chief, Michele Doucette for doing an amazing job of professionally converting Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions Volume II, Kindle Version. This book is now up live on Amazon in a much improved status! Even if you presently own the original Kindle Version, please check out this book! It now has an alphabetical index and is well structured throughout, and for only $4.95.

The original Volume I, as professionally converted by by great friend and Graphic Artist, Kent Hesselbein is, of course, still available, and is selling well after all the time it has been out.

Both books are also available in paperback on numerous websites worldwide. If you don’t have either of them, please check them out today!

Well, it’s almost here!

This Thursday is the first of two local book signings for my new book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, Volume II. The first volume is still ranked in the top 1/2 of 1 percent of all paperbacks on, and is also selling in the UK and Continental Europe as well as occasionally in other countries. It has received top reviews by experts in the field of writing, teaching and speaking, as well as the average English speaker, and has been used in helping others learn our language, and selected for numerous libraries. I am very proud of this success, and looking forward to great sales from the second volume which picks up where the other one left off, with meanings and origins of over 1,000 new phrases and proverbs. If you haven’t bought the second one yet (or even the first one), or know someone who would appreciate one for a gift. if you are close enough, come on out Thursday, or go to Amazon or my site at where a discount is given when ordering both!

Both Book Signings Now Scheduled




I now have details to the second of my two local library signings of my Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions books, original volume and brand new Volume II.

The first one will be Thursday, October 20 from 3:00 PM to 4:30 PM at Magness Library in historic downtown McMinnville, Tennessee. This is an exclusive event.

The second will include me along with two other authors in an event at Morrison Public Library in the center of Morrison, Tennessee.between the hours of 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM on Saturday November 5.

At both signings I will have available copies of both books at special discount prices, plus I will be available for photo ops and questions about my work. These books have received high critical acclaim and the first book is in libraries, public schools and Universities across America in the UK and Continental Europe. They are different because of the thousands of hours which went into research over six years to produce as accurate an account of origins and changes through the years as possible, not just cute stories like some books contain. I hope tp see many friends and make new ones!

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.




An author’s greatest pleasure

An author’s greatest pleasure is sincere praise from other authors. They, more than anyone else, realize what it takes to put together a work, be it a novel,  a work of detailed research, or any other genre, consisting of hundreds of pages which captures to attention of the reader and makes it difficult to lay down once started.

When I saw the reviews that two of my accomplished author friends had posted on Amazon, I was deeply honored and humbled.  Lee Pennington, a retired University of Louisville, KY professor, poet and three-time nominee for the Pulitzer Prize in Literature wrote the following about Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions Volume II:

5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterpiece!

By Lee Pennington on September 23, 2016
Stanley J. St. Clair’s “Most Comprehensive Origins of Clichés, Proverbs, and Figurative Expressions” Vol. II is a masterpiece!
Be prepared to delay your own work when you get hold of this book. It will take away your focus from whatever you’re doing at the moment and send you on a delightful journey through a world of discovery. It’s a total delight to sit and read where our most used expressions actually came from, where they were first used.
This book will be around for years to come and will be used over and over by those wanting to know where those little sayings came from. It will be a very special tool for many, many people and will never be far from hand when they want to look something up.
All the sayings are in alphabetical order so it’s so easy to look up that expression you’re so familiar with and wanted to know its origin. Everything is there from “an ace up one’s sleeve” to “it‘s a dog’s life” to being on the “wrong end of a stick.”
I could go on and on, but if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to get back to the book and look up a few more expressions.
This book is a must for your library!
Lee Pennington
Gail Deiderich, a retired school teacher and writer for the Tampa Bay Times posted the following:
By Gail Diederich on September 22, 2016
Stan St. Clair has done it again! He has provided an intriguing, interesting and extremely well done compilation of expressions used in language. Whether one is a reader, a writer or simply one who enjoys using oral language effectively in conversations, this book is a treasure to have in hand at all times. This is Volume ll and makes an excellent companion/continuation of what St. Clair did in Volume l. For the person who appreciates the richness of expressions in language, this book satisfies like no other that I have found. Beyond all of this, it is a highly enjoyable book to simply pick up for a relaxed moment and discover the meaning of phrases, their origins and the history that supports many. Both volumes are impressive with their large number of entries, all well documented. I hope there will be a Vol. lll. I’ll be first in line to get a copy.
A dear researcher friend of mine in London, UK, sent me an email which included the following:

Dear Stan,

I do not know whether to praise you or kill you because ever since  Volume II arrived I have been unable to put it down which means my own work has had to be put aside.  It is the best book you have written so far.  I particularly like the overall composition of the book and, in particular, the care you have taken to give the origins of the various expressions.  Truly a commendable and memorable piece of writing which must represent thousands of hours of work


This book, and the original volume make excellent Christmas gifts and they are available on Amazon worldwide.



Two dreaded terms in the 19th century about travel on rivers!

In the 19th century, two American terms meant something horrible happening to human beings, and both involved being forced to go either up one river or down another. In my soon-to-be-released book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions these appear in sequence. on pp 348 and 349. I have included them both here:

Sell down the river

This means to betray, disappoint or hurt someone who trusted you. It derived from slave trading in the Southern U.S. prior to the Civil War. Selling a slave down the Mississippi River was typically a method of getting rid of one who was seen as rebellious, thus uprooting the person and separating families, and was a great betrayal to all of the family members. The more Southern plantations were noted for harsher treatment of slaves. The earliest known reference to the phrase in print is from The Ohio Repository (later The Canton Repository) in May, 1837:

“One man, in Franklin County has lately realized thirty thousand dollars, in a speculation on slaves, which he bought in Virginia, and sold down the river.”

After this, numerous other citations appeared in books and periodicals about selling slaves down the river. Mark Twain showed a strong understanding of the meaning of such a practice in Pudd’nhead Wilson, first serialized in The Century Magazine in 1894:

“‘If at the end of that time you have not confessed, I will not only sell all four of you, but— I will sell you Down THE RIVER!’ It was equivalent to condemning them to hell! No Missouri negro doubted this.”

It wasn’t long before the saying was being used figuratively, as in this early example from Small Bachelor by P.G. Wodenhouse, published in both the U.K. and U.S. in 1927:

“When Sigsbee Waddington married for the second time, he to all intents   and purposes sold himself down the river.”

Send someone up the river

In the 19th century, a person who was convicted of a very serious. crime in New York City was sent up the Hudson River to Ossining, to the infamous ‘Sing Sing prison.’ This separated the hardened criminals from the run of the mill (see in first volume) petty thieves and pick pockets. Eventually this term began to apply to anyone sent to maximum security prisons. The earliest available reference in print is from The New York Supplement, Volume 46, 1897, in the case of Dunn et el v. Wehle, Supreme Court, Appellate Term, July 29, 1897:

“…he told the plaintiff that ‘if he recovered a judgment he must be very careful because he had sworn in supplemental proceedings he had nothing, and they might examine him again, and he must be very careful, or they might send him up the river.’”

A citation in quotes is found in Popular Science, August, 1932, page 16, in ‘New Prisons are Proof Against Riot and Outbreak,’ indicating that the saying had become a colloquialism:

“Pallister, once a mason, had been ‘sent up the river’ before on a burglary charge and at that time he had actually helped in the construction of the death house in which he was confined.”

In pole vaulting they raise the bar to determine greatest ability. But where did the expression ‘Raise the bar’ really come from?

Here is another example of folk etymology being incorrect in my new book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, Volume II, to be released later this month:

Raise the bar^

This expression is used to refer to gradually setting a standard of success or quality higher. It is said to be taken from pole vaulting and high jumping where the bar is set higher as the competition gets stiffer and new records are set. The earliest references in print, however, are from a different ‘bar.’ In the Proceedings of the Illinois Bar Association, Forty-fifth Annual Meeting at Dixon, June 9, 10, 11, 1921, page 61. Note that it is talking of raising the ‘standard of ethics’ but that bar is not capitalized, making it ambiguous:

“We think that if all of the counties throughout the state would do that, it would tend to raise the standard of ethics, of conduct of the profession; and the reading of those canons by the public at large would tend to raise the bar in the public esteem.”

The next year in the Proceedings of the Alabama State Bar Association, Held at Southern Club, Birmingham Alabama, April 28, 29, 1922, a similar statement was made, on page 42, and bar is capitalized, indicating that the origin could indeed be from raising the ideals for attorneys, not the bar used in high jumps;

“And already what we say, if we say is right, goes a long way, but when we raise the Bar to that high standard it should occupy, where we make every lawyer feel that he is an officer of the court, that the oath he takes is a solemn obligation, that it is up to him to live up to the obligation.”            

The next unmistakably figurative use of the phrase also comes in a legal context in 1935, in the New York Court of Appeals, Records and Briefs, page 59:

“The validity of an indictment does not ordinarily depend upon the correctness of a date appearing therein, provided the time alleged does not raise the bar of the statute of limitations.”

A similar citation appears in a New York Court of Appeals record in 1942 in regard to raising the bar of a statute. In fact, the first available reference to raising the bar for high jumping does not come until a Life Magazine article on July 13, 1953.

Early Release Date Announced!

This exciting second volume of phrase origins and meanings will be released on October 1, 2016. Be watching Amazon at that time!:




Based on present progress of final analysis and minor changes being made from the proof of my new book, Most Comprehensive Origins of Cliches, Proverbs and Figurative Expressions, Volume II, I now am able to announce the new early release date! That date is August 25, 5 weeks and 2 days ahead of originally planed schedule. This is being expedited due to other books which are coming from other authors which will demand my attention. As soon  as I know the dates, I will announce my interview on local radio and book signing at the local library which will launch sales here.

Here is another of the over 1,000 new entries in this long-awaited sequel:

Expect the best and plan for the worst^

This proverb means that a positive attitude is important in life, but even so, one must always have a ‘back up plan’ in case of an unexpected disaster. It is often attributed to Zig Ziglar, the wonderful motivational speaker who certainly brought this to our attention. The basis of this saying, however, goes all the way back to the late 17th century. Seneca’s Morals Abstracted in Three Parts by Roger L’Estrange published in London in 1679 has this on page 104-105:

“I would hope the Best, but prepare for the Worst.”

Almost 200 years later it was used in The Day of Rest, An Illustrated Journal of Sunday Reading, from the Church of England, August 23, 1873, in a column titled, ‘The Bright Side:’

“But he who looks on the bright side in a religious spirit will prepare for the worst, though he hopes for the best.”

Oregon Teachers Monthly, January, 1906, in ‘Ashland Normal News’ by editor Armilda Daughty said it this way:

Hope for the best, prepare for the worst, and take what comes.”