The genesis of “the Almighty Dollar” – from Genesis to Washington Irving…

The word almighty, used in connection with God, appears 57 times in the King James Version of the Bible. Starting in the Book of Genesis, God is variously referred to as “the Almighty God,” “God Almighty” and, most often, simply as “the Almighty.” The English idiom “the almighty dollar,” which is commonly used to mock … Read more

The 1941 New Yorker cartoon that created the expression “Back to the old drawing board!”

Drawing boards have been used by engineers and architects for more than two centuries. But the saying “back to the old drawing board” is more recent and can actually be traced to a specific source and date. It was coined by the American artist Peter Arno in a cartoon first published in the March 1, … Read more

“All the news that’s fit to print.”

As noted by many sources, “All the news that’s fit to print” — the famous slogan of The New York Times — is linked to the date February 10, 1897. The edition printed on that date was the first to have the slogan printed at the top left corner of the front page. It has … Read more

“These are the times that try men’s souls…”

During the Revolutionary War, getting soldiers to stay in the Continental Army was one of the biggest problems facing the American commander in chief, General George Washington. Many American soldiers were non-professional militiamen who volunteered for a limited number of months, usually during the spring or summer. After a short stint, they were legally allowed … Read more

The 1984 presidential debate that launched the term “Spin Doctors” – and a famous quip…

Nowadays, most people are familiar with the term “spin doctors.” I think they’ve been more omnipresent than ever during the 2016 presidential campaign, though few people know how they got that name. The term is used to refer to the professional political consultants, PR gurus and media commentators who create or utter statements designed to … Read more

As American as apple pie, cherry pie – and violence…

Apple trees are not native to America. They originated in Central Asia and were grown in Asia and Europe long before European colonists brought them to North America. However, as explained in a post by the eminent word and phrase expert Barry Popik on his site, American-grown apples and American-style apple pies eventually became renowned … Read more

“Back in the Saddle Again”

The idiom “back in the saddle again” was already in use before it was immortalized in song by the singing cowboy star Gene Autry. It was originally applied to cowboys and jockeys who were returning to work, riding on their horses again, after taking a break or recovering from an injury. By the late 1800s … Read more

An update on the origin of the term “a self-made man”…

If you start looking into claims about the origins of common phrases, you find that many of those claims are myths that have simply been repeated so long that they came to be cited as true. Some of these bogus phrase “origins” are based on the earliest example recorded in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary … Read more

What is the “It” the Greeks had a word for? And what does that saying come from?

You’ve probably heard the saying “the Greeks had a word for it” (sometimes given as “the Greeks have a word for it”). But you may not be aware of how this enigmatic idiomatic expression got its start. It was launched into our language with a splash on September 25, 1930, when a bawdy play titled … Read more