Posted by: Dutch | March 23, 2010

Jump on the bandwagon

Meaning

To join a growing movement in support of someone or something, often in an opportunist way, when that movement is seen to be about to become successful.

Origin

A typical bandwagon

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Posted by: Dutch | March 22, 2010

Get off on the wrong foot

Meaning

Make a bad start to a project or relationship.

Origin

This has the sound of an old expression – from Shakespeare, the Bible or similar. Shakespeare did use the notion of a ‘better’ foot (which implies a wrong foot) in King John, 1596:

“KING JOHN:

Nay, but make haste; the better foot before.
O, let me have no subject enemies,
When adverse foreigners affright my towns
With dreadful pomp of stout invasion!
Be Mercury, set feathers to thy heels,
And fly like thought from them to me again.”

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Posted by: Dutch | March 21, 2010

Rack and ruin

Meaning

Complete destruction.

Origin

It might be thought that the rack in this phrase refers to the mediaeval torture device, as in the phrase rack one’s brains. This rack is however a variant of the now defunct word wrack, more usually known to us now as wreck. The rather tautological use of the two similar words ‘rack’ and ‘ruin’ is for the sake of emphasis. In that respect the phrase follows the pattern of beck and call, chop and change, fair and square etc.

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Posted by: Dutch | March 20, 2010

Batten down the hatches

Meaning

Prepare for trouble.

Origin

Climate change is providing plenty of opportunity to reinforce our property against bad weather. The securing of property, especially the covering with protective sheeting, is called ‘battening down’. That’s not how the phrase originated, although it’s not far away in terms of meaning. It has a nautical origin and ‘battening down’ was done on ships when bad weather was expected.

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