Wednesday, May 22, 2013

cliché: lower the boom

Meaning:  Various: To punch out; to chastise or punish.

Example: After his cheeky remark, I lowered the boom, delivering my own one-two verbal punch.

Origins: Sailing (beam securing sails to masts, which when swung across the deck may hit someone or knock them overboard); also Theater (beam for staging that might fall or be lowered quickly to knock someone down).

(Definitions and origins.)

  • lower the beam
  • let loose the boom
  • exercise the boom
  • give chase with the tackle
  • unleash the scaffolding
  • rock the rigging

Discussion: There are lots of ways to say "wrecking ball" with either sailing or thespian jargon, but you need to be careful not to be obscure. In the end, I deleted a couple that though they applied probably wouldn’t have been clear. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

cliché: behind the eight ball (8 ball)

Meaning: Put at a disadvantage or unfavorable position (definition).

Example: With nothing but difficult options before him, Bill found himself behind the eight ball.

Origins: Billiards and the game of Eight Ball, perhaps Eight-ball Croquet. First use is in the 1929 Sheboygan Press about baseball. (Source.)

  • behind the hate ball
  • behind the black ball
  • behind the odd ball
  • behind the mid-ball
  • behind the killer ball
  • menaced by the eight ball
  • intimidated by the eight ball
  • gamed by the eight ball
  • galled by the eight ball
  • on the unlucky side of the eight ball

Discussion: I tried to play on the variety of ways you might think of facing an eight ball in a game of billiards. 

Update: I had struggled with rewriting this cliche for some reason. As I was promoting his page on social media, an entirely new angle hit me - other game metaphors:

  • caught between the chutes and the ladders
  • caught at the bottom of a Sorry! slide

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

cliché: the bee’s knees

Meaning: Excellent quality (or the small things in life that count)

Example: Those miniature gold bar earrings are the bee’s knees.

Origins: Various and undecided. Bee’s knees carry the awesome pollen. 

  • the cow’s udders
  • the sheep’s locks
  • the bird’s peeps
  • the hummingbird’s wings
  • the puppy's cuddle
  • the striker’s toes
  • the punter’s feet
  • the penitent’s knees

Discussion: I suggest there are few things so small that provide so much gold as the bee’s knees, but there are lots of things we probably don’t consider that proportionally provide an equal amount of good. That’s what I took into consideration in rewriting this cliché. 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

cliché: beauty is only skin deep

Meaning: Appearances can be deceptive; physical beauty is superficial (definition).

Example: Her words not so gracious as her appearance, we learned her beauty is only skin deep.

Origins: First use attributed to Sir Thomas Overbury, 1613, 1856. (Source.)


  • beauty is a blemish of the skin
  • beauty doesn’t reach to the bone
  • beauty is a tattoo
  • grace is an outer garment only
  • once the skin breaks the beauty bleeds away
  • glamour is but a mask
  • loveliness is a linen few care to turn down
Discussion: Once again, we break this idiom down into its essential meaning to create its rewrites.

Monday, April 29, 2013

cliché: beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Meaning: Beauty (or ugliness) is subjective (definition).

Example: She says he’s handsome, I say he’s average; such is our notion of beauty, which is in the eye of the beholder.

Origins: In various forms, 3rd century BC Greek, 16th century AD Shakespeare and Lyly, but not in its current form until the 19th century AD. (Source.

  • in beauty, the beholder sets the gauge
  • beauty is subject to the jaundiced eye
  • glamour is an astigmatism true to the beholder
  • fairness favors the beholder
  • loveliness is the gift of the onlooker
  • charm is an artifact of the beguiled
  • grace is a spectator event
  • elegance is a biased view

Discussion: This rewrite took me a while. The trick here is to decide what to call “beauty” and then how to acknowledge its reception. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

cliché: beat the bushes

Meaning: seek something diligently; also, work hard to achieve something.

Example: Sales department knows, when earnings are down you beat the bushes for leads.

Origins: From hunting practice of flushing birds from hiding by hitting bushes with a stick.

Source for meaning and origins.

  • beat the flora
  • beat the shrubs                         
  • thrash the chaparral
  • whack the vegetation
  • jostle the low hanging fruit
  • wake the early birds

Discussion: I’ve attempted to address both the original wording and the nuances of meanings. See what you can do.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

cliché: beat around the bush

Meaning: addressing an issue in a round-about way (definition).

Example: When asked for details, she hemmed and hawed then beat around the bush.

Origins: Hunting during medieval times, flushing wild game out of the bushes at the risk of also flushing out more dangerous game. (Source.)

  • beat around the tall grass
  • send the lads into the bushes
  • make noises from the treetops
  • walk the edges of the crowd
  • drive around the traffic jam
  • get to the heart by way of the lungs
  • cross the river at the creek

Discussion: The key to this rewrite isn’t so much to duplicate the original as it is to restate its intent, which is to avoid the danger or inconvenience by taking other means.