Thursday, May 31, 2018



Hoosegow. Slammer. Clink. Cooler. What’s up with all these synonyms for jail?

The word jail comes from a Medieval Latin word for cage which was born of an earlier Latin word for hollow place or cavity. The noun form of jail showed up in English in the 1300s through a dialect of Northern France. The verb form didn’t show until the 1600s.

The term cooler began to mean jail in 1884. Its source word, cooler, showed up only ten years earlier, meaning a vessel in which liquids or other things are set to cool.

Slammer appeared in 1952, from the idea of the jail door slamming shut. Its source, slam, probably came from a Scandinavian source, & appeared in English in the 1670s meaning a severe blow.

The word prison has been with us since the 1100s and came from Latin through Vulgar Latin & French. The original Latin term, prehensionem, meant a taking.

The verb clink has been with us since the early 1300s — it’s thought to be an imitative word — imitative of the sound made by links of chain abrading one another. Though Southwark London’s infamous prison, the Clynke on Clink Street, was commissioned in 1144, its name didn’t get generalized to mean jail until the 1770s.

The Mexican/Spanish word juzgao, meaning tribunal or court, gave us the English word hoosegow in 1911. Juzgao is one of many offspring of the Latin word iudicare, which meant to judge. 

Though joint didn’t officially mean jail until 1953, etymologists are pretty sure this meaning came from an older meaning of joint popular in the early 1400s, when joint meant building or establishment where shady activities take place.

In the 1700s the word brigantine was born to refer to two-masted schooners. Sailors quickly shortened the word to brig. About a century later, when many older brigs had been retired & deemed prison ships, the word brig took on new meaning.

Did any of these etymologies startle you? If so, please let me know in the comment section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Merriam Webster, Collins Dictionary, Wordnik, The Clink Prison, & Etymonline.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Arabic idioms

Arabic idioms

I hope you’ll enjoy these Arabic idioms.

cut from the tree = a person who has no family

son of Adam = respectable person

this is my measuring bucket, not yours = mind your own business

the carpenter’s door is loose = the shoemaker’s children are shoeless

you came & God brought you = you came at just the right time

one hand doesn’t clap = if this is to work, all parties must cooperate

the eye doesn’t go higher than the brow = a person can’t rise above his/her given status

it takes the mind = it inspires awe

I have no camel in the caravan = this matter doesn’t concern me

the belly-dancer dies, but her waist still moves = habits are difficult to break

call the one-eyed man one-eyed = speak straight

to eat one’s head = to be overly insistent

he ate a wooden wedge = someone talked badly about him

movement is a blessing = exercise is good

the latest bunch of grapes = the most recently born & therefore favored child

Enjoying idioms? Check out these related posts:

And if you’re inspired, feel free to leave a comment. I love hearing from you.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Omniglot, Matador Network, EnglishIdiomsAndExpressions, Hussein Maxos, & Barakabits.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Portuguese idioms

Portuguese idioms

From Swedish to Japanese, & now to Portuguese idioms — thanks for joining me on Wordmonger’s World Idiom Tour. I hope you enjoy the poetic imagery in these idioms.

It’s the color of a donkey on the run = it’s color is difficult to describe

Many years turning chickens = much experience

Take your little horse away from the rain = give up

He’s like a racing mackerel = he’s too big for his britches

Break all the dishes = cause problems

There’s no beauty without an if = there’s no such thing as perfection

Monkeys bit me = I am intrigued

To do something so the English can see it = to show off

Swallow frogs = shut up & listen

Under the banana tree shade = no worries

To speak by the elbows = to be a motor mouth

Donkeys’ voices don’t reach the heavens = you’re saying something stupid

Bread to bread & cheese to cheese = easy as pie

To have a flea behind one’s ear = to feel suspicious

He’s got a head of rotten garlic = he is foolish or forgetful

From very small, the cucumber is bent = character traits are acquired at an early age

This is too much sand for my truck = I’m in over my head

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Omniglot, Matador Network,, &Twisted Sifter.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Japanese idioms

Japanese idioms

Last week we took a look at some Swedish idioms. This week, why not  a few Japanese idioms? May they bring a smile or two.

Ten men, ten colors = different strokes for different folks

Luck exists in the leftovers = it’s never too late

One’s act, one’s profit = we reap what we sow

To grab a flying foot = to take advantage of another’s mistakes

Don’t let your daughter-in-law eat your autumn eggplants = don’t let yourself be taken advantage of

Pulling water into one’s own rice paddy = looking out for #1

A frog in the well does not know the great sea = there’s more to life than you may think

Gold coins to a cat = pearls before swine

No face to show = shame

Nothing is more expensive than something free = the hardest debt to pay off is simple gratitude

Sheep head, dog meat = false advertising

If you do not enter the tiger’s cave, you will not catch its cub = nothing ventured, nothing gained

A monk for just three days = giving up at the first sign of difficulty

Even monkeys fall from trees = everyone makes mistakes

If any of these struck your fancy, please let me know in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Japanese Words, Matador Network, Language Realm, Linguanaut, & Quora.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Swedish idioms

Swedish idioms

Idioms always give me a smile. I hope these Swedish ones and their English equivalents do the same for you:

To make a hen out of a feather  = to make a mountain out of a molehill 

Suspecting owls in the bog  =  something fishy’s going on

Crossing the river to get water = doing something in a roundabout fashion 

Caught with his beard in the mailbox = caught with his pants down

Shame walks on dry land = immorality wins the day 

Don’t buy the pig while it’s still in the bag  =  don’t get a pig in the poke

Don’t sell the skin before the bear is shot  = don’t count your chickens before they hatch

There’s a dog buried here = there’s more to this than meets the eye

Pull one’s nose = pull one’s leg

I’ll get you for old cheese = revenge will be mine

Like a cat around hot porridge = fidgety & difficult about it

Gnomes in the attic = bats in the belfry

The cream on the mash = the icing on the cake

No cow on the ice = no immediate danger

If any of these struck your fancy, please let me know in the comments section.

My thanks go out to this week’s sources: Lost in Stockholm, Doctor Spin, Omniglot, & English Forums