Cliches: Over 1500 Phrases Explored and Explained

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Macmillan, Jan 15, 1999 - Reference - 224 pages
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Betty Kirkpatrick has complied and exhaustive dictionary--a must for writers, crossword puzzle buffs, and anyone who is intrigued by language.

Sample entries from Cliches

Let the cat out of the bag is an idiom cliche meaning to reveal a secret. In origin it refers allegedly to a fairground tick by which traders sold unwary buyers a cat in a bag, assuring them it was a pig. The buyers did not realize their mistake until they let the cat out of the back, by which time it was too late.

Bite the bullet is an idiom cliche meaning to steel oneself to accept something distressing. In origin it probably refers to the days before anesthesia, when soldiers wounded in battle were given a lead bullet to bite on to brace themselves against the pain of surgery.

Fly off the handle is an idiom cliche meaning to lose one's temper. Originally American, the expression has its origin in an ax or hammer, the handle of which becomes loosened and flies off after it has struck a blow.

 

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Clich├ƒ┬ęs: over 1500 phrases explored and explained

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Kirkpatrick, the editor of the Bloomsbury Thesaurus (Bloomsbury, 1993) and the latest edition of Roget's Thesaurus (Little, Brown, 1996), has turned her lexical attention to the cliche. In this ... Read full review

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This is a terribly shallow work in which overused phrases are being used to supposedly "explore and explain" other overused phrases. There appears to be little actual scholarship or research involved, and many examples are just plain wrong, such as this one from the text sample above: "Fly off the handle is an idiom cliche meaning to lose one's temper. Originally American, the expression has its origin in an ax or hammer, the handle of which becomes loosened and flies off after it has struck a blow." No! Totally backwards! The hammer head or ax blade becomes loosened and flies off its handle. My God how stupid!
Then there are the misspellings,again from the sample text above: "... a fairground tick ..." has to be "trick." And "The buyers did not realize their mistake until they let the cat out of the back ..." should be "out of the bag." Incredibly sloppy work.
 

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About the author (1999)

Betty Kirkpatrick is a writer and lexicographer. Editor of both the Bloomsbury Thesaurus and Roget's Thesaurus, she was formerly editor of the Chambers Twentieth-Century Dictionary. She lives in Scotland.

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