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For Pete's sake, doubting Thomas, highfalutin, stuck up

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April 23rd, 2014

For Pete’s sake!

If you’ve ever been fresh out of patience, chances are you’ve uttered the phrase, “For Pete’s sake!” Of course, let’s be honest; you don’t always use the name Pete (and if you did, then you possess purer virtues than the author).

This phrase is what we call a “minced oath.” Some worthy soul along the way decided to replace Christ’s name with one less blasphemous, so as not to offend God. In this case, St. Peter did the trick, and the next time this person whacked his thumb with a hammer, he cried out “For Pete’s sake!”

“For Pete’s sake, will you please be quiet?”

Doubting Thomas

Here’s another phrase with Biblical roots. First used in modern conversation around the early 1880s, “doubting Thomas” refers to that guy who always seems to play the skeptic. He never believes.

The label comes from the Bible’s John 20:24-29, in which the Apostle Thomas refused to accept that Jesus had in fact risen from the dead until he had definitive proof.

“Always a doubting Thomas, my father didn’t think that my theater degree would do me much good.”

Highfalutin

If you call a person “highfalutin,” then you think he or she is arrogant and pompous. This is one of the older American sayings still in common use today, dating back at least to the 1850s.

While no one knows exactly where this word comes from, the general suspicion is that “high” serves as a reference to degree or magnitude and “falutin” a colloquial variation of “flying” or “flown.” When you put them together, you have another popular phrase “high-flying” or “high flown,” both of which mean the same thing.

“The sales people in that fashion boutique have a highfalutin manner that is quite off putting.”

Stuck up

Apart from “snob,” “stuck up” is perhaps the single most commonly used term to refer to those suffering from an over-inflated sense of self-worth. Having first appeared in the 1820s, the phrase most likely comes from the popular image of a snob walking about with his or her nose “stuck up” in the air.

“My sister has been really stuck up ever since the committee named her prom queen.”

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