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Posts Tagged ‘1914’

Slap On The Wrist

Posted by Admin on July 29, 2010

Since the 18th century the word “slap” was used figuratively as well as literally to mean an attack, slur, censure or reproof, either written or spoken. 

The Oxford English Dictionary  traces the phrase “slap on the wrist” to 1914 and defines it as “a  mild rebuke or criticism.”  So a slap on the wrist is a nominal or token punishment which may or may not be appropriate for the crime committed.

All you can do is cross your fingers and hope that if you get a slap on the wrist, it will be because you got caught red-handed with your hand in the cookie jar.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

In Stitches

Posted by Admin on May 19, 2010

To be in stitches means that the individual finds himself or herself in a state of uncontrollable laughter, sometimes to the point of being in physical pain.

Stitches” refers to a stitch in the side — a piercing sensation just below the ribcage and the best way to relieve the pain is to stop what you are doing and to press your hand just below the pain. As this gesture has also been associated with full bodied laughter over the centuries, having a side stitch and being in stitches referred to the pain experienced from overexertion of the torso.

The phrase was first used by Shakespeare in his play of 1602, Twelfth Night, where Maria says:

If you desire the spleen, and will laugh yourself into stitches, follow me. Yond gull Malvolio is turned heathen, a very renegado; for there is no Christian, that means to be saved by believing rightly, can ever believe such impossible passages of grossness. He’s in yellow stockings. “

Despite appearing in a play by William Shakespeare, the phrase did not catch on as other phrases coined by Shakespeare caught on. Several generations later, in July 1914, The Lowell Sun reported that the community could count among its community ” … Ben Loring, a natural-born comedian, who seems to have no difficulty whatever in keeping his audience in stitches of laughter and glee.”

Posted in Idioms from the 17th Century, Idioms from the 20th Century | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »