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Where’d that phrase come from #46

Created date

July 17th, 2012

Chuck wagon

At some point, we ve all seen one in a cowboy movie a canvass-topped food wagon rocking back and forth as it rolls along a pitted prairie trail, its load of iron pots and pans clanging with every dip and rut. In Western films, the chuck wagon was a must-have clich , and for real-life cowboys, it was simply a must-have. But what is chuck, and what does it have to do with keeping hard-working wranglers well-fed on a cattle drive? The term chuck wagon actually derives from cowboy slang. Chuck was cowboy for good, hearty food, and the cart that carried it was a chuck wagon.

Mull it over

The word mull originally referred to the act of grinding or processing grain in a mill. During the late 19th century, mull entered the American lexicon as a reference to processing one s thoughts, which is where we get the phrase mull it over. I asked my boss for a raise, and he said that he would mull it over.


The origin of this term is rather practical. According toWebster s Dictionary, its first use in 1805 referred to the wooden cask from which a ship s crew got its drinking water; hence, the word s modern usage. Often, a ship s crew would gather around the scuttlebutt and gossip, much like office workers around a water cooler today. This is why the term scuttlebutt, in modern parlance, refers to rumors or gossip. According to scuttlebutt, my neighbor was arrested for drunk driving.

Second fiddle

It goes without saying that playing second fiddle is never pleasant. This phrase, which is synonymous with the horrible feeling of inferiority, refers to a custom in the world of orchestral music in which the lead violinist takes a bow to a round of applause, while the rest of the string section gets none at all. Some witty author along the way replaced a violin with the more colloquial fiddle and the rest is history. Though I m an executive officer, I m still second fiddle to the chairman of the board.