Archives for posts with tag: Dickens

A stitch in time saves nine.

This proverb is about attending to something which needs mending before it gets worse.  A small hole may only require a single stitch to mend it.  If left it could require ten.

Sewing was not seen as a chore by the person proposing to Curly Locks in the nursery rhyme.

Curly locks, Curly locks,
Wilt thou be mine?
Thou shalt not wash dishes
Nor yet feed the swine;
But sit on a cushion
And sew a fine seam,
And feed upon strawberries,
Sugar and cream.

In stitches means laughing.  A pain in the side from walking fast is also called a stitch.

To button-hole someone means to stand talking to someone about a topic they may be able to help with.  I always think of the button-holes on lapels of jackets where flowers may be worn.  It sounds as if the person has caught hold of their victim by the lapels!

Bursting at the seams means too tight.  In David Copperfield Mrs Peggotty had trouble with her buttons!

Pin sharp can be used to describe a distant view on a clear day.

Pins and needles describes the tingling sensation, when he blood begins to circulate properly after sitting awkwardly or kneeling down for some time.

It’s a snip a bargain, perhaps following a price cut.

Pick holes in…
…means criticise or find the weak points.

A production line is a conveyor belt in a factory where the workers each have a specific task to do.  The article being made moves along and has something added by each one.  If people working at home produce several similar items in a short time, they may liken it to a production line.

Miniskirts first came into fashion in the Swinging Sixties.  The correct length was found by kneeling on the floor and measuring up four inches.  Skirts stay in position at the waist unlike dresses, which can move upwards if the wearer raises her arms, for instance.

Midi-skirts became fashionable a little later.  They were mid-calf length and very practical in winter.

Hot pants were very short shorts.

Changing fashions could be included in the phrases It’s all part of life’s rich pattern and It’s all part of the tapestry of life.  Tapestry is a craft I enjoy.  It is interesting that the tapestries hanging on the walls of stately homes were woven, whereas modern tapestry kits involve stitching.  The most famous tapestry is the Bayeux tapestry, which depicts a famous episode in the histories of England and France.


William and Harold were rivals for a throne.
Photo credit Wikimedia commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Bayeux_hawking.jpg

Tailor-made or made-to measure  is in contrast to off the peg.  A tailor is a man who makes gentlemen’s clothes to their individual measurements.  If something turns out to be a very good fit someone might remark, “It could have been tailor-made”.  Or if it is not clothing, “tailor-made for the job”.  Off the peg clothes are in standard sizes.

Inside out is a phrase I really like.  The inside of a garment has been turned outward and it is inside out.  Tailors and dressmakers do most of their work with garments turned inside out.  It means all the seams are out of sight when they are worn.

Patching is an old  method of repairing cloth.  Patched knees are usually evidence of a fall, which may have resulted in hurt knees and torn trousers.  Patched elbows on a jacket may be there to prevent wear and prolong the life of the garment.  Leather is often used as it is stronger than woollen cloth.

Darning is a way of mending knitted items using a needle threaded with matching yarn.  The edges are neatened and the hole is filled by weaving over an area including the hole.

The seamy side (of a place, for example) is rough and not fit to be seen.

A seamless whole is an expression about something which seems perfect, without a visible join.  Knitting in the round (circular knitting) achieves this result.

I mentioned (in an earlier post) the soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ clothes when he was crucified.  The reason for this was that his tunic was seamless and they did not wish to tear it to divide it between them.  John Chapter 19 verses 23-24

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Money talks…

…but not by chinking in pockets!  I didn’t understand this the first time I heard it.  It was explained to me that people who have money are in a stronger position to influence others.  I still don’t quite get it!

They have more money than sense
is a criticism of those who seem to spend unwisely.  Not a modern phenomenon!   A proverb is
a fool and his money are soon parted.

They have pots of money.
Some people keep their small change in jars, but the rich are unlikely to have a shelf with rows of jars like Winnie-the-Pooh’s honey!

In the kitty.
A kitty is a joint fund.  For example, a few friends out for a meal might put money in a kitty to pay for their drinks.

Money for jam.
Jam can be a good fund-raiser, but it takes a bit of effort to make it.  Jazz musicians may jam too…improvising.  The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase, Saying and Quotation has this under “Success” with various explanations.

It’s his bread and butter.
This is what someone does for a living and (not surprisingly) is very good at.

Push the boat out.
Spend more than you normally would, perhaps for a special occasion.  The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines this as “celebrate”.

Spend a penny.
Before decimalisation in Britain, public toilets (or conveniences) had coin-operated doors, which required 1d. (one old penny) to unlock them.  Hence the euphemism of spending a penny arose for going to the toilet.

Pay someone peanuts.
A low wage.  This expression has been expanded to something along the lines ofIf you pay peanuts, you can expect to get monkeys!”

If I had a pound for every time…

someone had asked me…   …I’d be a rich man/woman.

All contributions gratefully received.
Perhaps this originated as a notice in a church.

Strike a bargain.
Come to an agreement over a price.

Into the bargain.
Not usually to do with money.  This is another way of saying “as well”, but often when the additional thing is unhelpful.

Nouveau riche.
A French phrase which has entered the English language.  People who are not used to having money often flaunt it unlike those who have
old money
which may have been in their family for generations.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth.
Anyone going to buy a horse would inspect it carefully and would possibly be able to tell its age from its teeth.  However it would seem very ungrateful to treat a gift in this way.

Give someone a run for their money.
This can mean give them some competition.

A good run for one’s money
is a racing expression.  Presumably, someone backed a winner.  It is used in other contexts too.

Short-changed.
Literally not given enough change; figuratively, swindled.

She cut him off without a shilling.
A shilling was never a large sum of money.  The coin which used to be called a shilling has been replaced by 5p.  It must have been a heart-breaking situation to lose contact with someone in these circumstances!

No expense spared.
This can be used literally or ironically.  However sarcasm can be ambiguous.

Living beyond one’s means.
This is what Mr Micawber warned against.  If you do it for too long, you will not be able to
make ends meet
and could end up
in queer street
(in debt).

Spending money like there’s no tomorrow.

Proverbs Chapter 21 verse 20  (NIV In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.