Endangered Phrases: Intriguing Idioms Dangerously Close to Extinction

by: Steven D. Price (0)

As the world changes, so does language . . . An A-to-Z guide to expressions from yesteryear that are becoming increasingly scarce.
  “Person to person” (and “station to station”), “bar sinister,” “the weed of crime bears bitter fruit,” “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” “will o’ the wisp,” “poor as Job’s turkey” . . . these are just a few phrases that were once part of everyday speech. However, due to the evolving nature of language and numerous cultural changes, there are hundreds of phrases poised on the brink of extinction.
  Can such endangered phrases be saved? Steven D. Price, award-winning author and keen observer of the passing linguistic scene, answers in this challenging and captivating compilation filled with definitions and discussions of the history behind the phrases. It is sure to increase your appreciation of the English language’s ebb and flow—and enhance your own vocabulary along the way.

The Reviews

I'm a "word nerd." I like unusual and uncommon words and phrases. I enjoy looking up word etymologies and pondering the connections between "mega" and "major."This book presents an odd assortment of phrases in alphabetical order and provides a brief explanation of the phrase's meaning and origin. Thus, we end up with entries like the following:"balling the jack: to move rapidly. A “jack” was a railroad term for locomotive. “Ball” referred to the round electric signal that indicated the speed at which a train should travel. The fastest speed indicated by the signal was at its highest point, which indicated to an engineer that his locomotive could “highball it down the line.” Other trainmen would say the engineer was “balling the jack.” The phrase came into general usage from a 1913 ragtime song of the same name. The lyrics gave instructions to do a similarly named dance (“First you put your two knees close up tight, you swing ’em to the left and then you swing ’em to the right …”)".That makes me wonder whether the name of the '70's band, "Red Ball and Jack," was based loosely on this phrase.And:"get off the dime: to move or to stop wasting time. Back in the 1920s and ’30s, taxi dancers were female dance hall employees whose livelihood was dancing with any men who paid for the opportunity. The usual fee was ten cents, but that’s not what “dime” in “get off the dime” meant. Dancing with man after man for hours on end was tiring business, and the women often draped themselves over their partners and moved their feet as little as possible, no more than the width of a dime. Although the men didn’t object, dance hall managers did. That sort of mobility might lead to hankypanky that would invite attention from the police and other enforcers of public morality. “Get off the dime” was the order, whereupon the women were then obliged to take more energetic dance steps."I did not know that.Here's another:"below the salt: less socially acceptable, socially inferior. Due to the difficulty of production in cold climates, salt was an expensive and exclusive commodity in medieval England. At that time, the nobility sat at the dining hall’s “high table” whereas their servants and other commoners ate at lower trestle tables. Dishes or containers of salt were placed on the high table where only people of sufficient social rank had access to them. To be “below [or beneath] the salt” came to mean being less well regarded than other people."Good to know.A lot of the "endangered phrases" don't seem to be endangered, unless I am getting on in years and they are being lost among Generation X. Are "bite the bullet" and "black sheep" really going the way of "23 Skidoo"? On the other hand, I was baffled the first time I heard this one in conversation:"round heels: promiscuous. The image is that of a woman who is such a pushover that the heels of her shoes became rounded from her being pushed over backwards so frequently. The phrase was popular in men’s dormitories and barracks until the sexual revolution changed attitudes. Other obsolescent phrases and expressions were “a scarlet woman,” “a woman of easy virtue,” “loose [or “low”] morals,” a “tramp.” On the other hand, men were applauded for being a “lady’s man,” a “cocksman,” a “Romeo,” or a “Casanova,” all of which demonstrate which gender controlled the language."So, you get the drift.If you like words and language, or you are interested in writing, this is a good book.

A light read but a good reference of old sayings. I was told a tinker's dam was a bit of clay around the hole in pot to keep the solder repair in place. Once used it was no good or worthless

I am not entirely sure whether the comments on the phrases are always 100% correct as I have read different explanations in other books. Nevertheless a very entertaining book.

Quite an interesting book, filled with phrases we used to hear all the time.

had my friends and I captivated for hours

This book is easy to read and has a nice variety of phrases and mix of history, classic literature and nostalgia.

Endangered Phrases: Intriguing Idioms Dangerously Close to Extinction
⭐ 4.0 💛 20
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