This category contains 22 posts

Note 352 – The phrase ‘for all intents and purposes’

According to, ‘for all intents and purposes’ means “In effect; for all practical purposes” and although the phrase’s exact origin isn’t clear, it has been around since the time of Henry VIII (16th century). They also say that the phrase was originally known as ‘to all intents and purposes’, but “it is ‘for all … Continue reading

Note 350 – Time flies when you are having fun

A colleague said this to me at the end of a busy day last week. Knowing that this is a very popular phrase, I thought that I’d look up its origin on the way home.  After scribbling down some notes, it gave me an idea for today’s post.  The term time flies is “used to mean that time passes … Continue reading

Note 320 – The phrase okey dokey

I wrote this phrase in an email the other day and wondered about its origin. define this as an American phrase first seen in the late 20th century and is another way of saying ‘okay’; however they list other American meanings as ‘absurd, ridiculous or ‘to swindle or deceive’ (which personally I’ve never used). … Continue reading

Note 308 – The phrase ‘chip on your shoulder’

Where does the phrase chip on your shoulder come from and what does it mean?  Wikipedia call it a metaphor that describes people who “nurse a grudge or grievance that readily provokes fury or disputation”. Cambridge Dictionaries online define the phrase as seeming “angry all the time because you think you have been treated unfairly or … Continue reading

Note 305 – Lo and behold v Low and behold

The correct phrase is lo and behold; however, I felt it necessary to make a note about it today because I actually spelled it low and behold in my blog yesterday (all corrected now) and wanted to make sure I don’t make that mistake again!  After a bit of googling though, it appears that it’s a common error.  … Continue reading

Note 281 – Do you say vicious circle or vicious cycle?

Having always used the expression vicious circle, I was confused when I heard vicious cycle mentioned on an audio programme the other day.  After some research I have found that both are used, although vicious circle is preferred.  Here are a few notes: Cambridge Dictionaries online define vicious circle as “a continuing unpleasant situation, created when … Continue reading

Note 247 – Definition and Origin of ‘Beck and Call’

When I used the phrase beck and call in Have you Asked for Time to Yourself? (one of my other blogs), I made a mental note that I was going to define it at some point, and find out a little bit more about its origin.  According to, a person who is at your beck and call is “someone who does everything for … Continue reading

Note 208 – The Latin expression ‘per se’

According to Wikipedia, per se is a Latin phrase meaning ‘in itself’, although the individual Latin words can be defined as: per = by or through se = itself, himself, herself or themselves The Merriam Webster dictionary explains that per se can be used as an adverb or an adjective as follows: Definition of per se as an adverb (source: … Continue reading

Note 204 – How metaphors are different to similes

Yesterday I blogged about similes and today I am going to explain how they differ from metaphors.  Graham King in his book Collins Improve your Writing Skills, explains that metaphors are “describing something by using an analogy with something quite different”.  In the example it’s raining cats and dogs, we don’t actually think that there are cats and dogs falling … Continue reading

Note 203 – The use of similes in writing

According to Graham King in his book Collins Improve your Writing Skills, a simile “makes a direct comparison between two dissimilar things”, for example, as fit as a fiddle or as drunk as a skunk and similes are usually joined by the introductory words ‘as’, ‘like’, ‘as if’ or ‘as though’.  Bernard C Lamb in his book The Queen’s English calls them … Continue reading


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