Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

How Cliché: the “C” list continues

Carry Coals to Newcastle: to do something unnecessarily. The expression stems from Newcastle-upon-Tyne located in northeastern English. Henry III granted Newcastle a charter to mine coal. Becoming a major coal center, they would not be in need of coal as it would be unnecessary. Similar sayings are found in other countries, such as in French it is said to “carry water to a river.”


Cold Comfort: of little consolation. Although it is not known the origination of the expression, Shakespeare liked it enough to insert in a few of his plays such as The Tempest and The Taming of the Shrew.

Cold Hands, Warm Heart: just because someone seems unresponsive, that does not men they can’t express emotions. It’s thought Vincent Lean contributed the saying in a 1902 collection of sayings. Another interpretation is a person can be both rational and compassionate.


To Pour Cold Water On: to discourage enthusiasm or pleasure. This saying dates back to Roman times from Plautus who said “They pour cold water on us.” Cold water can definitely dampen an otherwise good time.

Come Off It: be realistic, no fooling around. This American slang term comes from the 1900s and stem from the action of coming down from a higher place, such as dismounting from a horse, with the idea of being on the same level as the other person standing on the ground.

Cool As A Cucumber: composed, not rattled. It’s true: cucumbers are cool. It’s believed the inside of a cucumber is 20 degrees cooler than the outside air. Since this expression can be dated to 1732 writer John Gay, who wrote “I…cool as cucumber could see the rest of womankind,” one wonders how they figured, or even decided, to see if a cucumber was really all that cool.

Crazy As A Loon: unconventional behavior noted. There are different thoughts on this saying. Granted, the cry of a loon is quite unnerving. There is also the idea that the behavior of a loon is considered unconventional when flocks of loons seemingly fly erratically at each other over a frozen pond. This gives way to the expression of being “loony,” but in fact this loony refers to “lunar” or the phases of the moon. And we all know how a full moon can influence behavior.

Cry One’s Eyes Out: weep in extremity. Although it is not possible to actually cry until one’s eyes fall out, it may seem so in the throes of an emotionally draining situation. In a 1705 play, The Careless Husband, a line stated, “I could cry my eyes out.” The saying is sometimes referred to as “Crying one’s heart out.”


To Curry Favor: attempting to extract a means of getting ahead. In the sixteenth-century there was a satirical romance involving a horse named Fauvel who represented cunning. To groom or curry the horse indicated someone was hoping to enlist its use. Fauvel became “favel” and eventually became “favor” over time.

Cute As A Button: appealing in appearance. “Cute” is derived from the 17th century “acute” which meant, shrewd, ingenious, and even clever. Somehow, the word transferred to meaning “attractive in a dainty manner” perhaps being associated with buttons which are small and for the most part, attractive.


Stay tuned as the “D” section is set for next time another batch of clichés are explored.

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6 thoughts on “How Cliché: the “C” list continues

  1. petespringerauthor on said:

    There’s no use “crying over spilled/spilt milk.”

  2. Cold comfort is a good one.

  3. How Cliché: the “C” list continues

  4. No “Cut the crap?”

    Tsk tsk

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