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Where'd that phrase come from: blow Dodge, over the top, mum's the word, out of the woodwork

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September 3rd, 2014

Blow Dodge

Usually, when someone “blows Dodge,” it means that they left and rather hastily. The phrase is a modernized version of the Western cliché, “Get out of Dodge.” And indeed, Dodge was actually a frontier town much like Tombstone and Deadwood. It was violent and lawless. Generally speaking, it wasn’t a great place to stay—hence, the all too popular desire to blow or get out of Dodge.

“It’s getting pretty crowded here. I think I’m going to blow Dodge.”

 

Over the top

Something is “over the top” when it’s extreme in nature. For instance, a person may be guilty of “over the top exaggeration.” But the phrase itself derives its meaning from World War I. The first conflict to employ machine gun technology, WW I forced soldiers on both sides to dig into trenches. Even poking your head above the trench wall was to invite death. To actually go “over the top” and charge the enemy’s line verged on suicidal. In a word, it was extreme.

“Everything he does is over the top. If a wall needs three coats of paint, he’ll give it five.”

 

Mum’s the word

When “mum” is the word, you know it’s time to zip it; say nothing. The word “mum” was actually the equivalent of “silent” in the sixteenth century Middle English lexicon. But the origin of the phrase as we now know and use it comes from none other than Shakespeare’s Henry VI, in which Hume says to the Duchess, “Seal up your lips, and give no words but mum.”

“Mum’s the word about dad’s surprise 50th.”

 

Out of the woodwork

When something comes “out of the woodwork,” it seems to suddenly appear from nowhere. The question is where did this idiom come from? Well, out of the woodwork. The phrase is a reference to household bugs—spiders, ants, and the like—that manage to emerge from seemingly impenetrable spaces in wood floors, wall baseboards, and window sills.

“When the store advertised a big giveaway, shoppers came out of the woodwork.”

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