Back again this month as we continue looking at the clichés found in the “A” section of Christine Ammer’s Have a Nice Day–No Problem.
All that glitters is not gold: what you see is not always the truth.
Though is not exactly the same wording the intent is found in Proverbs 13:7, NIV: “One person pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.” This expression is traced to a Middle Ages proverb and in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice during the suitor scene it is stated, “All that glisters is not gold.” It is an apt saying that has its time and place.
All to the good: everything will turn out well.
“Good” used to be an accounting term applied to overall profit. If something was “all to the good” that meant the outcome was profitable. Today it’s more of a term that indicates the situation might have had some bad moments, yet in the end it all worked out. Another one of those clichés that depends on perspective or use.
All wool and yard wide: the real item–not a fake.
Once upon a day in the yards-good industry, a person would be assured the measurement and quality of the goods was true by stating it was measured by the standard yard. This was an assurance that the item was genuine and substandard measurements were not used. Personally, never heard of this one.
Along for the ride: passive participation
“I’m just along for the ride.” Might be considered as more of a clarifying statement than an actual cliche. It’s relatively new being traced to the mid-twentieth century.
Another day, another dollar: another work day accomplished.
Back in the day a day’s work would equal a dollar. Today the term is not so literal as it is figurative and is probably stated with a facetious or ironic tone.
Any port in a storm: accepted relief in a desperate situation, even if it isn’t the first choice.
Found in the 18th century in different plays, but thought to have been in use previously. One of those sayings that can truly fit certain occasions.
A-OK: just about perfect.
The term “OK” is abbreviated from “okay.” The term “A-OK” is attributed to NASA’s Colonel Power who misunderstood Alan Shepard’s “okay” confirmation that the flight was going well as “A-OK.” It entered into the everyday lexicon and indicates that everything is excellent, the best it can be. That is, unless, one is being sarcastic and applies the term as irony.
A poor thing but mine own: as in “it’s not much, but it’s mine.”
This expression might have been derived from Shakespeare’s play As You Like It when Audrey says, “An ill-favour’d thing, sir, but mine own.” There are many variations of this and I heard it recently in an Australian whodunnit when the sheriff defended one of her officers by saying, “He might be (uncomplimentary term), but he’s our (term). So the expression can take on the sense of ownership pride, loyalty, identity, but then if it came from Shakespeare there are a multiple interpretations already implied.
As the crow flies: the most direct route
Probably originated before the 18th century, the expression is given when a person is getting directions. It should be duly noted that crows can fly over traffic jams, don’t have to stop at toll booths, and avoid gas stations. Then again they don’t have cruise control or tunes while traveling.
At one fell swoop: happening all at once, usually a description of a singular violent incident.
Shakespeare, once again, is the author of this expression which appears in Macbeth. “Fell” at that time meant “fierce” and when it applies to the metaphorical line of how Macduff’s family was brutally murdered as a hawk might swoop down and kill chickens, it is quite appropriate.
At one’s beck and call: being at someone’s demands.
Oh, we’ve been there, right? When it is required to meet a person’s every need, call, wish, command. “Beck” is no longer in use, but it means “a silent gesture” as in finger beckon or nod of the head. “Call” is to vocalize a need. To be at someone’s beck and call means to be in someone’s line of sight to watch for both a silent gesture or a vocalized instruction. Isn’t that why texting was invented?
At one’s fingertips: instantly ready.
There is an ancient Roman proverb that says, “To know as well as one’s fingers and toes,” meaning it’s readily available. Fingers transformed into fingertips in the USA around the 19th century. I don’t know about you, but my fingertips aren’t always instantly ready. Mixing up the meatloaf puts fingertips on standby status, among other occupations that come to mind.
At this moment/point in time: at a particular time.
My editing fingers get itchy at this phrase. “Wordy” is the penciled side note. Just say “now.” There is also the expression, “At this stage of the game” for sports fans. Where did this phrase originate? It’s thought Watergate leaned heavily on this construct. It was cliché before it left the building.
Are you feeling self-conscious of these expressions now that you realize they could be cliché candidates? Or have you found one that you will casually drop in a conversation some time? They are there at your fingertips and it is A-OK to use them at your beck and call.