Food, cuisine, eating habits – they’re everyday aspects of life we think little about, yet they find their way into clever expressions. The following 10 examples attest to the rich diet of words and imagery we use to cook up unusual ways of saying things.
Everything but the kitchen sink
An expression meaning “everything imaginable” (whether needed or not). The phrase originated in the United States in the early 1900s but became popular during the Second World War. Bombing enemies was so intense at times that “everything but the kitchen sink” was thrown at them.
To chew something over
Meaning to “discuss or consider something at length”, according to Oxford Dictionaries. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary cites the first use of this term in 1939, which is also expressed as “to chew on”. Some origins point to gnawing or biting. Cows, notorious ruminants, will incessantly “chew the cud”, the partly digested food sent back into their mouths from their digestive tracts for further chewing. Whether this contributes to the idea of discussing something at length is unknown. But it’s certainly a visual reminder!
A lighthearted term for someone who is being … silly. The Urban Dictionary describes the expression as an amusing jibe to describe someone who is being absurd or generally stupid.
Signifying to “fail to make up one’s mind” (North American usage) or to “speak or write, especially at length, without saying anything important or useful”. Waffling is the bane of quick decision-makers. It originated in 17th-century Northern England via the term “waff”, or to “bark or yelp”. In the 1800s, it was used in Scotland and Northern England to mean to “wave about, flutter, waver or be hesitant”, most likely in the form of waff + le. It isn’t the same as the doughy pancake with indentations; that waffle comes from the Dutch wafel, and the Old High German wabo, meaning honeycomb.
A moniker for the top person in an organization. The term originated in burlesque theatre: the person who got the punchline correct in a skit involving three comedians also received a banana.
Denoting a faulty or defective item, often an unsatisfactory automobile – as in, “He’s been driving that lemon around when it’s not in the shop for repair.” According to British slang of the early 1900s, to “hand someone a lemon” was to pass off a substandard item as a good one. It may also have been a metaphor for something that leaves a bad taste in the mouth. And, in the 1800s, “lemon” was used to mean an unfriendly person.
An expression that refers to a “person or thing among many that spoils a situation for others”. It originated from a 14th-century proverb, “a rotten apple spoils the barrel”, which itself signified the spread of mold from one apple to the others.
To bring home the bacon
To “be successful financially or in earning a living”. The phrase purportedly has its origin in a custom from 12th-century England, when the Prior of Little Dunmow, Essex would reward couples who were devoted to each other with a side of bacon to take home. Its earliest known use was in 1924, according to The Oxford English Dictionary, with regard to an ancient game played at county fairs that challenged participants to catch a greased pig (the winner, of course, would take the pig home).
To take what one says with a pinch of salt
Wording meaning to “accept a statement but with a degree of skepticism about its truth”. The last part is also expressed as “a grain of salt”. Some point to its origin in the belief that food can be more easily swallowed with a small amount of salt.
Not one’s cup of tea
Used to indicate what one doesn’t like. The positive version of this expression – “It’s my cup of tea” – has been uttered since the late 1800s and became synonymous with acceptability in the United Kingdom. The dismissive variant, used more frequently in the United States, is thought to have been introduced during the Second World War.