Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

How Cliché: Oh, “G”

On to some clichés that may have you saying “Oh, Gee!”

To get a handle on something: to succeed in dealing with a difficult problem or situation. Handle can also mean the name or title of something or someone. The current use is figure out a solution.

To get a kick out of something: getting pleasure from. A twentieth century expression made popular in Cole Porter’s 1934 song “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

To get into hot water: to get into trouble. The reference is to be in water hot enough to burn or cause harm. In 1840 Richard Dana wrote in his Two Years Before the Mast “He was always getting in hot water.”

To get under one’s skin: to annoy someone. This probably refers to insects that bite and cause irritation. However, Cole Porter’s 1936 song “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” which describes a romantic inclination that could become irritating.

Gift of the gab: ability to speak well. the Gaelic word for mouth is gob. The word changed to gab by 1794.

Glutton for punishment: someone who takes on more than needed, as in unpleasant tasks. Rudyard Kipling used the expression in his 1895 story, “A Day’s Work” when he wrote “He’s honest, and a glutton for work.”

To go hog wild: to go crazy. An American expression thought to refer to how animals go crazy when thought to be in danger or is construed for excessive enthusiasm. As for the attachment to hogs? Hogs tend to make a lot of noise whether in pain or being happy.

The gory details: unpleasant aspects. Old English and German words have “gore” meaning related to “blood.” Gory details can refer to “bloody details.” Although blood is violent enough it can also extend to other unpleasant aspects such as extra emotional details.

To got scot-free: let go without penalty. The phrase has nothing to do with Scotland but with the meaning of “scot” as pertaining to tax assessment. To go scott-free to to go without having to pay tax, with a later meaning having to avoid any type of payment.

Got up on the wrong side of the bed: being grumpy. In ancient times using the left hand or foot was considered unlucky, so if someone got out of their bed using their left foot they were starting out the day badly. Caesar was known for this superstition.

To grasp at straws: making a hopeless effort to save oneself. A drowning person is said to grab at anything available to avoid going down, such as reeds. Reeds are also referred to as straws, but neither do much in giving support in keeping a person from going under.

Green around the gills: looking sick. Since the 1300s a green complexion signifies being ill while being rosy cheeked meant good health. “White” and “yellow” were also used to indicate illness, but green won out as the the designated sick color.

To grit one’s teeth: bearing up under pain. This comes from the ancient Greeks and Romans where setting one’s teeth to endure came from 300 B.C. Later, Thomas Jefferson wrote about Adams as “gritting his teeth.”

Which phrase surprised you the most? Any “Oh, G” phrases to contribute?

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6 thoughts on “How Cliché: Oh, “G”

  1. I always love these–especially this installment as it includes a pic of Bugs Bunny from the short Falling Hare. In fact, I got a kick out of it.

  2. “To grasp at straws” was never something I ever said, but the story behind it is so fascinating. I wonder how many others exist with that same dark history? All I am saying is “Grim cliches” is a fine book title.

  3. Do you think the Grimm Brothers had a book of grim clichés?

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