Thursday, February 28, 2013

cliché: a bum rap

Meaning: unfair blame or criticism (definition).

Example: The website got a bum rap for being difficult to reach, which was the result of a DOS attack.  (examples.)

Origins: bum as an adjective means of poor quality or useless, 19th century; rap as a term for criminal charge comes circa 1865 (History1. History 2.) 

  • bum blame
  • bum slam
  • twisted rap
  • lame critique
  • cheap lip
  • stretched bitch

Discussion: I have gone from very close to the original to very far from it but still encasing the meaning. This one took some work with a thesaurus.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

cliché: bad blood

Meaning: animosity between people (definition).

Example: A good fence often keeps bad blood between neighbors from escalating into a good war.

Origins: Blood and emotions; among first uses, Essays of Elia by Charles Lamb in 1823. (Source.)

  • foul blood
  • tainted blood
  • bile in the blood
  • vein hatred
  • ill tempered muscle
  • fury in the guts

Discussion: I have tried to rework both the concept of emotion and where that emotion resides. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

cliché: back to the drawing board

Meaning: restart from the beginning (definition).

Example: When the project failed, the boss said, “back to the drawing board, team.”

Origins: New Yorker magazine cartoon in 1941. (Source.) 

  • back to the drafting table (sketch book)
  • start over with clean paper
  • fresh doodle-pad, lads
  • lets refresh with a mental reboot
  • sharpen the wits and freshen the creative juices
  • go out the door and come back in like this idea never happened

Discussion: How might we rewrite this to reflect the switch over to generating ideas on computer screens?

Friday, February 22, 2013

cliché: back to square one

Meaning: return to the beginning; start again.

Example: If this experiment doesn’t yield the answer, we’ll have to go back to square one.

Origins: Various possibilities: English football broadcasts, board games, or hopscotch.

  (Definitions and origins.)


  • revisit square one
  • back to “Start”
  • back to launch
  • time to reboot
  • reset to zero

Discussion: I mainly worked with the board game scenario, since that seems to me to be the most apt metaphor. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

cliché: a backstabber

Meaning: to attack someone unfairly (definition). 

Example: As a co-worker reporting discreetly to the boss, she was a backstabber scuttling his career.

Origins: From 1920’s, one who acts behind someone’s back or “stabs your back.” (Source 1. Source 2.) 

  • a blindside attacker
  • an ear thumper
  • a kidney puncher
  • a heel scraper or crusher
  • a ponytail dipper or grabber

Discussion: I struggled to find something closer to “back stabber” but didn’t come up with anything. Perhaps you will?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

cliché: a back seat driver

Meaning: one who criticizes from the sidelines (definition).

Example: From the other side of the counter, Marge made continual suggestions on how to mix the recipe, in her typical role as back-seat driver.

Origins: From the modern day automobile passenger who freely comments on the driving habits of drivers. (Source.)

  • back seat adviser
  • rumble seat supervisor
  • rear seat moderator
  • coach seat pilot
  • over-the-shoulder editor
  • offsite oversight
  • blind guide 

Discussion: Not sure these are all equivalent rewrites, but they all give a flavor of the metaphor intended. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

cliché: a back handed compliment

Meaning: Insult disguised as a compliment (definition)(thesaurus).

Example: He delivered a backhanded compliment by insulting her on the strength of her perfume. (Example.)

Origin: As a synonym for left-handed and the left side of the body considered sinister. (Source.)

  • a knuckle-backed compliment
  • back handed kudos
  • aced an insult
  • a flutter-eyed compliment
  • a slight served to your weak side
  • a slap delivered with a left-handed wink

Discussion: (1) Here, “weak side” and “back hand” can apply to either left-handedness or right-handedness. (2) Also used as "back handed comment."

Saturday, February 09, 2013

cliché: back against the wall

Meaning: desperate, with no other options (definition).

Example: In a strange city and her wallet stolen, her back was against the wall.

Origins: expression from fighting. (Also, “back to the wall”). (Source.)

  • back against the bricks
  • backside to sheet rock
  • face to the fence
  • facing six sides of the walls
  • penned in by walls, fences, and borders
  • no escape but a bottomless pit
  • facing a ladder well shy of a climb to the top
  • facing a hallway ending in a locked door

Discussion: What other words do you have for “wall” or “back”? 

Friday, February 08, 2013

cliché: a babe in the woods

Meaning: a naive, defenseless young person (definition).

Example: Sometimes Charlie saw things so simply, he was a babe in the woods.

Origins: Traditional children’s tale “Babes in the Wood”. (Source.)

  • a lamb in the woods
  • a babe in the briers
  • a chick in the fox den
  • a rich kid in the hood
  • a yuppie in the barnyard
  • a sweetie in the locker room
  • a innocent in the exercise yard

Discussion: Admittedly, some of these may cross class lines or stereotypes, which isn’t my intention; rather it’s to show someone far out of his or her element. 

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

cliché: an ax (axe) to grind

Meaning: Have a dispute or issue with another (definition). Also, having self-interest for doing something (definition).

Example: In being left paying for lunch, I had an ax to grind with my colleague. (Also: Holding the luncheon at his restaurant where he stood to make a lot of money, he had a pretty big ax to grind.)

Origins: (Source1.) (Source2.)

  • an ax to hone
  • an ax to wield
  • a grumble to parlay
  • an office to tend
  • a gift horse to feed
  • a sugar daddy to sweeten

Discussion: I’ve attempted to serve both versions, first in the top three then in the bottom three.

Friday, February 01, 2013

cliché: at the end of the day

Meaning: the bottom line, in the final analysis (definition).

Example: 1+1 will always equal 2, at the end of the day. (Examples.)

Origins: Seems to have been first used in a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) but first recorded uses in print were from the 1950s onward (source). Saw a rapid rise in usage from 1985 onward (source).

  • as day closes
  • as the final seconds tick away
  • faced to choose at the midnight hour
  • when debate time ends
  • lacking extended time for flags and penalties
  • at end of official play
  • as you time out

Discussion: You might think of ways to recast this idiom other than the time metaphor, but for this rewrite I have maintained that theme.