Friday, March 29, 2013

cliché: bank on it

Meaning: do with certainty (definition).

Example: Her recipe for cherry pie is a winner, you may bank on it.

Origins: Late 1800s; alludes to banks as a place of safe storage for money. (Source.)


  • deposit on it
  • invest with it
  • secure a loan with it
  • bet your house on it
  • build a career on it
  • give a blind date a second call over it

Discussion: This rewrite is about being so confident in something that you can move ahead as you would in other interactions of life with confidence.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

cliché: the whole ball of wax

Meaning: everything inclusive (definition).

Example: The book contains everything you want to know about the topic, the whole ball of wax.

Origins: Uncertain, but first recorded in 9th edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 1953. Associated with advertising usage. May also have origins in old English estate law as a way to assign inheritance. (Source.)

  • the whole block of beeswax
  • the whole wad of gum
  • the entire lump of coal
  • the bursting cache of trash
  • the rich roll of cash
  • the full load of laundry
  • entire wall with cracks, dents, and all

Discussion: With no clear origins on which to draw for inspiration, I’ll break it down into parts – “ball of wax”, “whole ball”, “ball”, “wax”, etc. 

All you ever might want to know about wax from Candle Cauldron and Rotblatt Sculpture.

Friday, March 22, 2013

cliché: a bald faced liar

Meaning: undisguised or brazen liar (definition).

Example: The bald faced liar, it was as if his lie was his show of contempt.

Origin: 1640-1650 but with no explanation. Self-explanatory with expression? (Source.)

  • bare faced liar
  • open faced liar
  • wide faced liar
  • plain faced liar
  • blunt mugged liar
  • simple looking liar
  • wide-eyed liar

Discussion: Sometimes confused with bold faced liar, though they have slightly different meanings.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

cliché: bait and switch

Meaning: sales technique or ploy of offering something of higher value then encouraging the other person to accept something of lesser value (definition).

Example: First he offered me free tickets to the movies, then he pulled a bait and switch and offered me full-price tickets to the opera.

Origin: Bait used since 1300, switch used since 1890s but pairing of two dates from 1920s. (Source.)

  • carrot and stick
  • dangle and tangle
  • deal and steal
  • promise and pretense

Discussion: The original was pretty descriptive, but with a little imagination we can re-establish some of the feeling of having the deal ripped away from you. I also recognize that “carrot and stick” can be a cliché, but it’s usually a metaphor for reward and punishment, not for breaking a deal, so I think we can reuse it here effectively.

Friday, March 15, 2013

cliché: bag and baggage

Meaning: all one’s possessions (definition).

Example: They reproduced the entire household, bag and baggage.

Origins: Precedes contemporary English, as found in Rymer’s Foedera, 1422. Earliest English is 1525, Shakespeare in 1600. (Source.)

  • bags and boxes
  • cabinets and drawers
  • nooks, crannies, and corners
  • house and storage
  • house, basement, and garage

Discussion: The idea in this idiom is to express where someone carries or masses their belongings. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

cliché: bad to the bone

Meaning: thoroughly bad (definition).

Example: The thief stole even their last roll of toilet paper; he was bad to the bone.

Origins: “to the bone” = as completely as possible, based on trimming all the meat from a bone, leaving no waste. (Source: Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms, page 38.)


  • crummy to the core
  • bastard to the bone
  • mean to the marrow
  • rotten to the root
  • bad to the board foot

Discussion: The meaningful root to explore turned out to be “to the bone.” When I researched the full idiom, I kept getting pushed to the 1980’s song by Thoroughgood, yet found nothing of value on the idiom’s origins. When I researched the root, an idiom in its own right, that’s when I found this source. 

I tried to retain the minor alliterative nature of the idiom. There are surely many other ways to rewrite this cliché without that stricture.

Monday, March 11, 2013

cliché: a bad seed

Meaning: someone or something that is a bad influence or produces bad results (definition).

Example: Always getting into mischief, the youth was the bad seed of a troubled family.

Origins: Biblical references to the effect of sewing seed in fields. (Source.)


  • a flawed seed
  • a wayward seed
  • a seed of no good character
  • a withered planting
  • a pit with no future
  • a fruitless fount
  • an ill-gained grain
  • an unproductive kernel
  • a profitless pip

Discussion: Some definitions prescribe a genetic element as the source of poor production, but the usage I’m familiar with makes no such association, unless it’s simply understood.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

cliché: a bad hair day

Meaning: literally an untidy-hair day; also a disagreeable day. (definitions).

Example: Nothing was going well, it struck me I was having a bad hair day.

Origins: Literal use of words, became popular saying 1990-1995. (Source.)

  • a pillow hair day
  • a convertible-air hair day
  • a knobby sweater day
  • a chipped tooth day
  • an open zipper day

Discussion: Many of these define bad hair, others define a bad day.