Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Episode 50: Your Favorite Idioms Transcript

Click on “Read More” for the full transcript.

We used Temi to auto transcribe this, then Dan went through and checked it based on the show notes. He tried really hard on it, but this kind of stuff isn't his specialty. So if you notice anything confusing, please comment on this post so Dan can look at it and clarify anything.

NOTE: There are some curse words used, running from 22:03 to 23:00 in the time stamp. The rest of the episode is safe for work.

Shauna:                               00:00                    Welcome to bunny trails, a whimsical adventure of idioms and other turns of phrase, I'm Shauna Harrison
Dan:                                     00:05                    and I'm Dan Pugh and this is Episode 50!
Together:                           00:10                    Yeah, Wahoo!
Dan:                                     00:10                    There was much rejoicing
Shauna:                               00:12                    Since Dan and I usually select the idioms to research for the show. We wanted to hear from you for our 50th episode. For the last six weeks we've been asking you to send us your favorite idioms...
Dan:                                     00:23                    And you responded so well! So here are a few of your favorite idioms or other turns of phrase told in your own words and before we get into it, I'll mention that while I did mark this episode as explicit, it's actually only the very last segment and we'll give you a warning beforehand, so feel free to keep listening for awhile. First up from The Story Behind: The Extraordinary History of The Ordinary, it's Emily Prokop.
Emily:                                  00:47                    Hey bunny trails. This is Emily Prokop from the story behind and my favorite idiom is cost an arm and a leg. Now, I don't love when things cost that or even the literal idea of that, but when I went to check out some origin stories of idioms, I came across this one. Cost an arm and a leg came from way back when people wanted portraits painted of them. Painters would obviously charge more the bigger the portrait, but it's also said they charged more if you wanted your legs or arms painted. I thought this was such a funny origin story I posted it in the Facebook group for my show and then had second thoughts and decided to look into it some more. Turns out there is really no truth in the painting origin story of cost and arm and a leg. Some have guessed it originated following World War II and may have been referencing the price paid by soldiers who lost limbs in the war and another origin story comes from the phrases coined in the 19th century, I would give my right arm for, or even if it takes a leg. this phrase most likely originated in America, but in Bulgaria have their own versions. In France. they say it costs the eyes from the head and in Bulgaria they say it costs one's mother and father. Congratulations on getting to 50 episodes. I hope the celebration doesn't cost an arm and a leg.
Shauna:                               02:04                    Thank you Emily! You can catch more of The Story Behind next up are our friends from the Lexitecture podcast. Ryan will give you an overview and talk about his and Amy's favorite phrases.
Ryan:                                   02:18                    Hey there bunny trails listeners, this is Ryan Paulson from the Lexitecture, another language word nerd podcast. We'd like to thank Dan and Shauna for the invitation and send along our congratulations on them reaching the 50th episode milestone. Sometimes these number things are a bit arbitrary, but 50 is a big number and it's hard to get to in this podcasting thing. Actually does take a lot of work and a lot of dedication to get that high. So congrats to Shauna and Dan and thanks again for having us on. My cohost, Amy, we record our podcast across the Atlantic. She lives in Dundee, Scotland and we weren't quite able to make our schedules line up to do a transatlantic recording session for this one. But she sent along her contribution. We were by Shauna and Dan, if we could just give you a, our favorite idiom or phrase of the time turn phrase at the time we're recording this.
Ryan:                                   03:07                    And so the one that Amy came up with is a Polish expression originally and it's simply not my circus, not my monkeys. And it's sort of a fun way to wash your hands of something, not my problem, I didn't do any of this. This doesn't belong to me. You can talk to someone. I'll take it up with the actual ring master and it involves circuses and monkeys. So it's automatically more fun than it otherwise would be. Mine as is often the case with our podcast when we come up with examples of things, Amy and I... Is a little more, let's go with earthy, a little more low brow. But um, it knocked me off my chair almost literally the first time I heard it. It was a friend of mine originally from out in Nova Scotia who was describing a woman that he found particularly attractive.
Ryan:                                   03:53                    And the way he described that when he put that into words was I'd chop two cords of wood underwater just to have her spit on my toothbrush, which I thought was an incredibly vivid way of really getting across what he he want it to get across? And after all, isn't that what idioms or four. So not my circus, not my monkeys. And I chop two cords of wood underwater just to have her spit on my toothbrush. Those are our favorite idioms for the time being. And apologies again that you weren't able to get the Scottish Brogue in here, but if you want to hear a Canadian word nerd and a Scottish word nerd being friends and chatting nerdily about words and language and etymology and stuff, you can join us over at Lexitecture. You can find us wherever you're listening to this right now on any podcasting App. Just search Lexitecture, L E X I T E C T U R E, think architecture, but with Lex instead. And, uh, yeah, come along and join us and we'll talk about some words, but congrats again to Shauna and Dan and Bunny Trails and hope you guys have a great next 50 episodes. Talk to you soon.
Dan:                                     04:56                    Bye. Oh my God. That is literally one of my favorite phrases I use, not my circus, not my monkey daily it seems. And uh, I'd never heard the other one, but I really love the in depth multilayered approach to that. Like it's got so many layers.
Shauna:                               05:11                    I didn't realize... It's awesome,
Dan:                                     05:13                    well, you can find more of Ryan and Amy at That's l e x i t e c t u r e dot com. Next up is our friend Moxieh La Bouce from Your brain on facts with a series of British phrases.
Moxie:                                05:28                    Hi, I'm Moxie from your brain on facts here to talk about a few choice phrases from across the pond. Britain and America are two nations divided by a common language or to quote Dennis Farina's character from the movie snatch "Speak English to me, Tony. I thought this country spawned the friggin' language and so far nobody seems to speak it".
Moxie:                                05:50                    When you leave the received pronunciation of the Queen's English, British English can get tricky for American ears. How would you feel if someone said you were the dog's bullocks or the dog's dinner or even the dog's breakfast? Two of those are positive, one's negative, but probably not the ones you think. No one knows for sure what's so special about dog food or why we should want to compare things to a bowl of meat and meat byproducts. The dog's breakfast refers to a mess, a muddle of foul up or things catawampus. You've made a real dog's breakfast out of that. The dog's dinner or dressed up like the dog's dinner refers to someone looking sharp. It's as likely to be used sarcastically for someone who thinks they look good or sardonically for someone that's overdressed as a straight compliment. And the origins for both sayings are a bit fuzzy. The dog's breakfast probably originated in Glasgow, Scotland, at least according to some dictionaries. The 1937 edition of a dictionary of slang and unconventional English lists it as "a mess. Low Glasgow." There are a lot of theories for the origin of dressed up like the dog's dinner. Some people claim it referred to the stiff collars that were the height of male fashion in the 1890s that looked like or were derided for looking like actual dog collars. Others say that it might be a reference to a popular children's book titled The Dog's Dinner Party.
Moxie:                                07:23                    There's even a theory that the saying is related to the horrific death of Queen Jezebel, whose body was feasted on by dogs in the street between her unix throwing her out of a window and her husband deciding to have her buried. This is a Bible story in case that needs to be said. The first example of the dog's dinner that I could find in print came from the Miami News in October of 1933 and on the bus stop at the 57th street traffic halt, a youth from the sidewalk called to a young smoking lady at the rail. "What are you doing sitting there dressed up like a dog's dinner." So what's the meaning of the dog's bullocks? The word Bullock can be used with a few meanings, though the core meaning his testicle. If a thing is bollocks, it's rubbish. If you Bullock someone you chastise or Hector them. If you drop a Bollock, you make a mistake. Bullocks has had street cred as a mild swear word among English youth for a long time. Though the sex pistols 1977 album, nevermind the bullocks here, the sex pistols probably brought it back into greater prominence. The dog's bollucks seems to have originated in the first half of the 20th century appearing in the 1949 edition of the dictionary of slang and unconventional English, but then it was defined as a typographical symbol of a colon and a hyphen which I choose to interpret as a rude emoticon 40 years before the Usenet. The reason why the dog's bullocks are considered to be top tier isn't clear. It may be linked to an associated phrase "stand out like the dog's bollocks". So stand out... Outstanding? Could it be tied to the universal enjoyment dogs seem to have in looking their genitals, not provably the, then again, you can't prove it wasn't.
Moxie:                                09:17                    It's more likely that the origin lies in the late 20th century reviving of the Post World War One period outbreak of exuberant coinage is of nonsense terms like the cat's pajamas and the bee's knees. Since the phrase came into use, some alternatives have emerged though never getting quite as popular like the pooches privates and the mutts nuts. Thank you Shauna and Dan for inviting me to be part of your hemi-centennial episode. If your listeners enjoyed this little tidbit, they can check out my main show, your brain on facts, a half hour podcast of things you never knew you never knew and my new show science with Savannah, age seven. Here's to the next 50 episodes.
Shauna:                               10:02                    The dog's bollocks always makes me get gonged cause they means the opposite of what I think it would mean.
Dan:                                     10:07                    Yeah, agreed.
Shauna:                               10:09                    If you want more facts for your brain, head over to to get all the latest facts for your listening pleasure
Dan:                                     10:17                    and be sure and checkout science with Savannah, age seven as well.
Dan:                                     10:22                    We want to give a special word of things for 50 great episodes to our patrons on Patrion. Specifically we want to call out lagomorphology interns, Charlie Moore, Pat Rowe and Mary Lopez. Charlie was our first patron and has been with us since we launched, so...
Shauna:                               10:37                    Thank you Charlie!
Dan:                                     10:39                    Charlie's been with us since literal day one! is a subscription service that allows you to support content creators you love. By supporting bunny trails on Patreon you have allowed us to cover our hosting fees, website domain costs, the costs of transcription services, and we're saving up the little bit that we have left to upgrade our equipment to give you better sound quality. The transcripts, by the way, are absolutely free and they're available at
Dan:                                     11:02                    With $1 a month you can get access to our show notes, which have all of the information that didn't make it into the show, plus a couple of extra things. At $3 a month, you'll get a special RSS feed to hear bunny trails before anyone else and you'll get special behind the scenes content as well. Of course, at every level you'll get all of the perks of the lower levels too. At $7 a month, you'll get access to our monthly mini episode where we tackle a turn of phrase that wouldn't necessarily be safe for work as, barring this one episode, the rest of them are safe for work. And at $15 a month you'll join the ranks of Charlie, Pat and Mary as our lagomorphology interns and be recognized by name on every episode. There are also a few higher level perks. If you really love the show and are able to provide a bit more support, you can join the community at
Shauna:                               11:54                    All right. Next step is our friends Aven and Mark at The Endless Knot a podcast by two incredibly talented and educated people.
Aven:                                   12:03                    Hi, I'm Aven
Mark:                                  12:04                    and I'm Mark
Aven:                                   12:05                    and we're from the endless not podcast. So our favorite phrase is the Latin phrase, carpe diem, usually translated as seize the day. Now this phrase has always been my family's motto though over the years it's been played with and punned on so much that we usually now say it as "don't let the fish die". The other reason I love it is that it comes from one of my favorite writers, the first century Roman poet, Horace. Uh, did I mention that I'm a classics Prof? The phrase comes from one of his odes in which he advises a friend to enjoy life while he can, because the pale specter of death is looming.
Mark:                                  12:40                    and as a historical linguist who studied Latin and the history of English and a serial procrastinator who needs reminding, I like the phrase for it, surprisingly interesting etymology. You see, the usual translation of the phrase as seize the day is not exactly correct. The Latin word Carpere means to pick, pluck, or gather crops. So it's a harvest metaphor. Harvest your crops while they're ripe, before they all go bad. The prefixed form exCarpere probably leads through medieval Latin scarsas, diminished or reduced and old French escars to English scarce. So it develops the sense of being plucked out and therefore rare from this, this shift. Ultimately it comes from the proto-indo-european root kerp, which means to gather, pluck, or harvest. And that same root also passes into English through the Germanic branch to produce Proto Germanic, ?Herba? To pluck and herbst which means autumn.
Mark:                                  13:42                    And from those sources we get the English words harvest both as a noun and as a verb. That proto indo european root kerp derives from another proto indo european root escare, which means to cut or sheer, hence the idea of harvesting and that more basic proto indo European root gives us the word share from the idea of a division or portion. So cutting it up into shares and also the Latin word, Caro, Caro-carnis which means flesh or meat from which we get the English word carnivore one who eats meat.
Aven:                                   14:17                    Sort of the opposite of the plucking and harvest metaphor.
Mark:                                  14:20                    Yes, but it comes from the cutting idea. Now, as I say, that's often rendered in English as seize, the English word seize comes from old French seizir to take possession of or take by force, put in possession of bestow upon which comes from late Latin Sacire which probably comes from a Germanic source, so not originally Latin.
Mark:                                  14:43                    Perhaps it comes from the Frankish word sakjan to lay claim to from the proto indo Eugopean root sod to track or seek out, and we can compare this to the old English word secan or secan to seek from which we get the word seek or perhaps it comes from the Proto Germanic root, Satjan to place satjan also gives us the word set and ultimately that would come from the proto indo European root sed to sit. We also get the word sit from that. The second part of the phrase would seem pretty easy. Carpe diem or seize the day. You would think dies meaning day and the English word day are, you know, they look like they're related, but they are not related at all, surprisingly. So Latin dies comes from the Proto indo European root dhau which means to shine. So that route also gives us the word diary, make sense related to day or journal as well as journey. And also the word, the Latin word, deus meaning God and the specific God named Jupiter and Zeus as well as Tuesday named after the Germanic god tiw or tyr. On the other hand, the English word day either comes from the proto into European root ogg, which is a great word, meaning day though that initial d is hard to explain. So the other suggestion is that it might come from proto indo European deg which means to burn. And that root also leads to Latin Febres, meaning fever and English, the English word fever. So of course many people have quoted and translated Horace over the years. This particular line included. But it was really because of the English romantic poet Byron, that the actual Latin phrase became common in English and the particular line which is found in a collection called life letters and journals of Lord Byron, which is material that was written in 1817 but not published until well after his death in 1830 the quote runs, "I never anticipate, Carpe Diem. The past at least is one zone, which is one reason for making sure of the present."
Aven:                                   17:04                    And Byron, his use of the phrase in this quotation shows that he really understood Horace's poem, which like many of his odes puts forward the epicurean philosophy that there's no point in worrying about the future because it's out of our control. So we might as well just drink since we're all going to die anyway. And on that cheery note, we'll end our discussion of our phrase carpe diem. In case you're interested our podcast, the endless not is about etymology, language history, especially classical and medieval, cocktails <sound of two glasses clinking together as if doing a 'cheers' or a 'toast', and the surprising connections in the world around us. So we'd love it if you'd come to check out an episode or two. Thank you so much to the fine folks at the bunny trails podcast for having us on. And congratulations on 50 episodes,
Mark:                                  17:47                    Carpe Diem.
Dan:                                     17:48                    I did not know all of that about Carpe Diem. That is amazing.
Shauna:                               17:52                    I feel like my education is totally lacking at this point.
Dan:                                     17:54                    Right? I know. Well this is why we listen to all of these podcasts that, that are here. And uh, so that's why we, that's why we were glad that they were able to, to help us out here for this episode. But also...
Shauna:                               18:06                    It's super awesome...
Dan:                                     18:06                    I'm, I'm uh, I'm just always amazed at how much knowledge and intelligence there is out in the world, especially when it comes to things for like word nerds like myself.
Shauna:                               18:15                    Right?
Dan:                                     18:15                    So Aven, Mark, thank you very much. I want to make sure everybody knows that The Endless Knot is also a youtube series about etymological explorations in cultural connections using language, literature and history to explore the web connections in the world all around us. So you find that youtube channel or the podcast at or you could just go to youtube and search The Endless Knot.
Dan:                                     18:38                    To wrap us up, we want to give you a special treat with our friends, Carrie and Megan at the Vocal Fries podcast... a podcast which is about linguistic discrimination. Now this clip towards the end is where we earn our very first explicit tag for our podcast. So if that's not your thing, you can skip ahead about four minutes and 20 seconds. I don't know if they did that on purpose or not. I think you should stick around though cause it's well worth it.
Carrie:                                 19:04                    Hi, I'm Carrie Gillon
Megan:                               19:05                    and I Megan Figueroa
Carrie:                                 19:06                    And we're the vocal fries. Our podcast is all about linguistic discrimination.
Megan:                               19:11                    Yes. All the different ways you could possibly be a jerk about language
Carrie:                                 19:15                    and we tell you not to be a jerk.
Megan:                               19:16                    Yes.
Carrie:                                 19:18                    So, but today we're talking about our favorite turns of phrases or idioms.
Megan:                               19:23                    Yeah. And we thought it would be fun to choose something, not just like what we might use in everyday speech, but I decided to choose one in Spanish that my dad used to say that his mom said. And um, so it means a lot to me. So I'll start with that. So it goes "Dime con quién andas, y te diré quién eres" and literally it's tell me who you walk with and I'll tell you who you are. Um, in my, you know, if you're an English speaker from the US or Canada too I'm assuming, um, you know, like birds of a feather flock together an idiom. So it's basically that. And um, I love it because I don't know much about my grandmother and for my dad to tell me that she used to say it. I really loved that. And then also I think truer words, right? Like it's so true. So many people are telling us these days who they are by who they associate with or who they might quote or, or the vocabulary they share with other people. I've like been like, oh, so I can tell that you support this group because you're using that vocabulary item.
Carrie:                                 20:31                    Yeah, I really liked that idiom because yeah. Um, like birds of a feather is less, um, evocative of like, yeah. Like you show who you are by having like, who you hang out with, whereas birds of a feather is more like, oh, I don't know, just feels more like they look, they look alike.
Megan:                               20:52                    Right.
Carrie:                                 20:52                    It's not quite as, um, it doesn't feel as political and I'm, maybe that's only because it's, you know, my language and so it's, yeah. You don't, you don't dig as deeply into it.
Megan:                               21:03                    Yeah, that's true. Yeah. But like, I dunno, it's like, would you be standing next to someone, you know, like walking with someone who's like an absolute racist, you know, jerk. Like I would walk with that person, you know, so it's like, okay.
Carrie:                                 21:19                    Right,
Megan:                               21:19                    I got ya. We're even just a jerk. Yeah, exactly. Just a jerk. It's just now it's like really more important is that you're on with racist or it's true for other types. Okay. What about you? You're going to tell me Canadian one.
Carrie:                                 21:34                    Right. So there were so many kings and things that came to mind. Most of them were just words like, Skookum. Um, which means really good or strong
Megan:                               21:44                    It doesn't sound like that. I don't know what it Sounds like, but Not that!
Carrie:                                 21:47                    It comes from Chinook jargon, so it's like really it's extra cool. Yeah. But, um, the one I decided to choose is a "gong show". So if I call something I got ever, it was probably a most Americans know gong show the TV show.
Megan:                               22:03                    Yeah.
Carrie:                                 22:03                    But when Canadians use it, what they mean is shit show.
Megan:                               22:08                    Okay. I guess that would've been my guess because the show is a shit show.
Carrie:                                 22:13                    It is kind of a shit show. Yeah, it's true.
Megan:                               22:15                    Yeah. So yeah. So, but I would never use gong show. I've never heard someone use it ever.
Carrie:                                 22:22                    No. Right. Cause it's just not used to the United States at all as far as I can tell. Like it's one of the few things that really does not go across the border at all.
Megan:                               22:31                    But like what do you feel is more fun saying that's a gong show or that's a shit show?
Carrie:                                 22:36                    Uh, they're, they're both fun. They're both, they're both fun. Yeah. Like shit show is like, hm, how do I explain this? It's really terrible is what comes across with shit show. Gong show is more like things were wild and out of control so that it could be terrible, but it also could be more like wacky fun.
Megan:                               23:00                    And you know what I can use for both of those is cluster fuck
Carrie:                                 23:03                    yes. Cluster fuck also kind of applies to... it's a similar situation. Like
Megan:                               23:08                    I could what you just described, cluster fuck could be encompassing both of them for me. Cool. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love it.
Carrie:                                 23:16                    So those are idioms or turns of phrases we hope you enjoy and check us out at
Shauna:                               23:23                    I love this show because it really tackles some of this sexism, racism and other isms that are inherent in words we use.
Dan:                                     23:30                    And Carrie and Megan do it so well.
Shauna:                               23:32                    They do. Oftentimes, uh, some people don't even realize how bad it is until someone calls it out. Uh, which Carrie and Megan definitely do. So as they said, check them out at
Dan:                                     23:45                    Well that about wraps us up for today. Thank you for joining us. If you have a suggestion for an idiom or another turn of phrase or you just want to chat, you can catch us on Twitter and Instagram and occasionally even Facebook all @bunnytrailspod, or you can get episodes, transcripts, and links to everything we do
Shauna:                               24:03                    this week we had several great word nerds on the show, so go check out their stuff, give them a listen, be sure and rate them on your podcasting app and subscribe so you can catch all of their great content. Thank you listeners and fellow word nerds for joining us over the last 50 episodes. Here's to 50 more. We'll talk to you again next week. And until then, remember,
Together:                           24:23                    words belong to their users.

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