Posts tagged ‘animals’

January 11, 2011

Rubbing somebody the wrong way

Somebody rubbed that one the wrong way, pic: (c) Eric Gevaert |

This just happened to me at my son’s martial arts class.  A mother just totally rubbed me the wrong way and it took my utmost restraint not to say something politically incorrect – or rather something quite offensive.  No point in dwelling on what she did or said, let’s focus on the phrase: “to rub somebody the wrong way”:

It means to irritate, annoy somebody, to upset somebody, to bother somebody.

Generally rubbing somebody the wrong way is no major offense, it probably is something that does not bother many people at all but for one reason or another it really does upset somebody else.  Rubbing somebody the wrong way is actually likely unintentional.

Here are some examples:

Girl: “Why are you so unfriendly to McKenzie?”

Other girl: “oh, she just rubs me the wrong way.  The way she always talks about her wonderful boy-friend this, her wonderful boy-friend that, how he bought her that fancy jewelry, took her on a luxury trip.  It’s just annoying.”

The origin of this phrase is quite clear – when you rub a cat’s fur the wrong way – from tail to head – you annoy the cat – and that is never a good thing.

January 8, 2011


Curious looking cat, pic: © Igor Kharlamov |

Here is an idiom for curios people – or maybe it is rather for nosy people: “curiosity killed the cat”

This is used to warn people of the perils of being too inquisitive and sticking their noses into other people’s business, especially if that business is none of their business.  People who are too curious, this idiom tells us, get in trouble or worse.

You can use this idiom as a an answer when somebody asks a question that you do not want to answer.

For example, you got a nice pair of earrings from that admirer you have only been seeing for a short time and you are not ready yet to talk about him but your colleague asks: “where did you get those earrings???”  Your answer “Curiosity killed the cat” should tell her unmistakably to leave the topic alone without you having to say something more rude such as “it none of your business.”

The origin of this idiom is so obscure and convoluted from what I read that I decided to skip it – curiosity might kill the cat but convoluted stories sure put the reader to sleep.

January 7, 2011

Cows come home

This cow is already home, still waiting for her buddies, pic: © Alisher Duasbaew |

Here is another idiom involving animals and one of my favorite ones” “until the cows come home”.

The phrase means for a (very) long, undefined period of time.  It is often used in context with talking as in this example

Liberal to Conservative: “we can talk about this until the cows come home but we will never agree on gay marriage.”

But other things can also be done “until the cows come home, for example: dancing – “I love to dance.  I could dance until the cows come home.”, go on a diet “It isn’t fair, I can diet until the cows come home and I am not loosing weight.” – and many other things.

An alternative version is “till the cows come”, it means the same thing in just a little more casual.

Where and when the phrase originated is unclear but it seems to refer to the slow and unhurried pace of cows that arrive in their own sweet time.

January 6, 2011

Horse’s Mouth

straight from the horse's mouth, pic: © Julia Pivovarova |

If you hear something form the horse’s mouth or “straight from the horse’s mouth” you have it on highest authorities, you get it from somedoy who is involved and knows a lot about it.

Here are a couple of examples:

“What, Jeff is leaving?  I can’t believe it.”

“You better believe it, I have it straight from the horse’s mouth.”

Employee 1: “I can’t wait for that annual bonus.  I want to buy a new car.”

Employee 2: “Better postpone that.  There won’t be bonuses this year.  I have it from the horse’s mouth.”

There are several explanation how this idiom came about.  The likeliest involves horse racing:  before horse races people discuss which horse is likely to win the race.  The most trusted authorities for tips are those who work with the horse’s and know in what shape they are in.  To get the ultimate answer about the horse’s conditions one would actually have to ask the horse itself and get the answer straight from the horse’s mouth.

December 7, 2010

Counting chickens

These hatched - and then someone had the great idea to color them, pic: (c) Tina Baumgartner

If you are (over)confidentially proclaim that you will win 27 million dollars in tonight’s lottery and then start planning  in detail about what you are going to do with all those riches coming your way then you might hear a good old expression in response:

“Don’t count your chickens before they are hatched”

The saying means, that you can certainly hope for an event in the future, but you cannot possible know what is going to happen and therefore shouldn’t count on it.

The whole thing is going back to – you guessed it – farming, to chickens hatching from eggs.  Not being a great chicken raiser myself I can only say that much: generally you end up with less chickens than you started out with eggs.  Who knows what happens, some might be not healthy, some eggs might never have been fertilized, or others get trampled on by somebody.

So assuming that 12 eggs will yield you 12 chickens is overly optimistic, just as spending the money from the lottery you expect to win tonight is also a wee bit too sanguine.