Eavesdrop

In the Middle Ages, houses typically were made of mud, clay, or some other earthen material. Their roofs were either thatched or shingled and equipped, not with gutters but eaves that extended a foot or so from the building. These eaves dripped rainwater from the roof, keeping the moisture away from the walls and foundation. 

Juke box

Most of them are antiques, even relics in an age of mp3 players; however, you still see some in venues bent on creating an air of nostalgia. At one time, the juke box was the centerpiece of entertainment in bars, soda shops, and pizza parlors across the country.

Lie through one’s teeth

When it’s obvious that a person is lying, we say he is “lying through his teeth.” While no one knows for sure where this phrase came from, there are a few theories that are worth noting. Here are the two most prominent ones:

Third rail

When we talk about something being a “third rail,” we mean it’s controversial, touchy, or more to the point, shocking. For instance, a topic that is a “third rail of politics” is a sensitive matter—one likely to spark debate and perhaps even partisan rancor. 

Speakeasy

During the prohibition era, the U.S. government tried to deprive taxpayers of alcohol. Despite a valiant effort, the dry movement was a bad, even absurd, idea and a failure. The fact was that most Americans liked their booze too much to give it up, regardless of the law. 

Blackmail

We’ve all heard the term "blackmail," which is the act of extorting money or privilege from someone by threatening to go public with sensitive information. But strangely, it has nothing at all to do with mail. 

Lily livered

If you call someone “lily livered,” you’re saying that he or she is a coward. The term is most closely associated with cheesy lines from Western films, especially when a drunken cowpoke feels compelled to challenge another to a “shootin’ match at high noon.”  

Blue collar

When a bigwig executive gets caught embezzling from his company, we say that so-and-so committed a “white collar crime.” Of course, the white collar refers to the dress shirt that executives wear. Why, then, do we call manual laborers and tradesmen “blue collar workers”?

Blue collar

When a bigwig executive gets caught embezzling from his company, we say that so-and-so committed a “white collar crime.” Of course, the white collar refers to the dress shirt that executives wear. Why, then, do we call manual laborers and tradesmen “blue collar workers”?

Chump change

As we all know, “chump change” is nothing to write home about. We use the phrase in reference to everything from pathetic paychecks to comparative contexts in which we want to emphasize another’s wealth. (For example, $1 million is chump change to Bill Gates.) 

Spick-and-span

When we say that something is “spick-and-span,” it means that it’s as clean as new—quite literally. Unlike many of the terms we’ve reviewed, this one is purely foreign-language based. There are no quirky stories, no historical events that we can attribute to it.