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Where’d that phrase come from #25

Created date

September 1st, 2010


In the days before strike matches, flint stones were the most common means of starting a fire. Those with miserly inclinations used these stones until they were as thin as a layer of skin. From that we get the term skinflint, which in common usage refers to those who just won t spend. "I'm too much of a skinflint to buy new shoes, despite the fact that my soles are worn out."


The word quack is a derivative of the older term quacksalver. Salver refers to a medicine with no real curative properties, and quack, to the charlatan pushing them on unsuspecting patients. In Dutch, the term literally means a bragger who applies a salve. In modern conversation, we use the shortened version quack. "In the 19th century, there were more quacks than fully qualified doctors."


When most of the usable cheese on a wheel is gone, a cheeseparer would continue to shave away at the rind rather than start a new piece. Just like a skinflint, he is unwilling to spend. "My wife told me that she was sick of my cheeseparing ways."

Around the Horn

While "around the horn" is a popular phrase in the game of baseball, its actual origin most likely refers to Cape Horn, the southern-most tip of South America. Before the 20th century, rounding Cape Horn was the only way that ships in the Atlantic could reach the Pacific. Such passage is a dangerous feat even today due to the rough waters in this region, but it s largely unnecessary thanks to the Panama Canal, which cuts the trip in half. In modern usage, the phrase refers to taking the long way in a journey. "Rather than going all the way around the horn, we should take the freeway."