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Where'd it come from? #48

Created date

November 27th, 2012
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Stock still


At first glance, one might think that “stock still” refers to the stocks used to immobilize and humiliate a person convicted of a crime. Not so. In fact, “stock” is Old English for a tree trunk, stump, or log, none of which move all that much.

Hence the phrase “stock still.”

“As soon as the doe heard our footsteps, she stopped dead in her tracks and stood stock still.”

Go to the dogs


When something goes to the dogs, it has taken a turn for the worse. In its most literal form, the phrase refers to all that is unfit for human consumption: tough or fatty meat, bones, and rotten food. Since the 18th century, however, the phrase has served as a metaphor for anything (not just food) that has gone bad and is no longer fit to keep.

“These days most novels are nothing but throwaway junk. Literature has gone to the dogs.”

Tuckered out


“Tuckered out” is an undeniably American saying, one that conjures images of humble farmers and country folk who weren’t tired or beat, but “plumb tuckered.”

Despite its rustic tone, the term “tuckered” doesn’t hail from the hills of West Virginia or the Mid West’s prairies. Instead, it derives from the early 19th century New England colloquialism “tucker,” which means to grow weary or tire of something.

In time, the phrase “tuckered out” worked its way into common parlance, and to this day, is a playful way of saying that you need some rest.

“I’m tuckered out after that two-mile jog.”

Double deal(ing)


It should go without saying that when we speak of double dealing, we’re referring to a transaction that wasn’t on the level. Someone got swindled.

But why double? Does it happen twice? Sometimes, but here “double” doesn’t refer to quantity. Since the 16th century, “to double” was to behave deceitfully. Eventually, we attached this concept of doubling to the act of dealing and wound up with the phrase “double dealing.”

“Benedict Arnold was once among Washington’s most trusted generals. But as it turned out, he was really just a double-dealing traitor, working as a spy for the British.”