Etomology of Image Sayings


The other day, as I was brushing my teeth, I thought to myself that I was becoming long in the teeth, and it made me think about all the other image related sayings that we hear from time to time. Here are just a few that came to mind:

Long in the tooth – as our gums receede with age, our teeth get longer and we become long in the tooth.
Wide eyed and innocent – babies, with their small noses, which make their eyes look larger and wider – are of course innocent.
Down at heel – as the heels of your shoes wear down with age and use, if you can’t afford to have your shoes repaired – then you’re not well off, and become down at heel, get thee to a cobbler!
What others can you think of?


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  • All fur coat and no knickers.

    That might be peculiar to the North of England, not sure. It means someone who thinks their posh and has outward signs of it, but have nothing underneath it all.

  • Tessa – do you know where the saying came from?

    Karen – or is it just general stress?

    NotSupermum – I love that – hilarious – I think it may be a peculiarly English phrase – not one we hear in Australia – though not much call for fur coats!

    WendyB – tell me about it!

  • Down at the heels means no money for the cobbler.

    In French, we talk about "le cordonnier mal-chaussé" – the cobbler or shoemaker who doesn't have proper footwear. This is usually used in a metaphorical sense nowadays.

    And don't forget – "a stich in time saves nine".

  • Well in England at least, mutton dressed as lamb means that someone is wearing clothes that are way too young for their age. So if great grannie shows up wearing a mini and a cropped tank, she is "mutton dressed as lamb."

    I like, "You can't make a silk purse from a sow's ear," generally meaning of something (or someone) is cheap and tacky, there is nothing you can do to change it.

  • Lagatta, in english, we have the expression "the cobbler's children go barefoot", or a variation on that.

    "Redheaded stepchild" is an ugly, anti-ginger : ) expression meant to denote a person who is not wanted or appreciated in any given situation. But, I must ask, who wouldn't ADORE a redhead?!

    This is maybe more fashion than image-related, but "Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in 3 generations," is a saying that is best explained here:

    "Wolf in sheep's clothing." (I wonder if that wolf is friends with the mutton who is posing as a lamb?)

  • Imogen: I learned it from a friend who grew up in Perth. I assume it meant trying to pass off mutton at the dinner table as lamb, i.e., quickly cooked instead of stewed.

  • According to my sis, who has studied this stuff, the phrase originated "during the war" (which was she didn't say) when butchers used to pass off stringy mutton as lamb by dressing it up with herbs and what-not. Who knows? lol.

  • I've done some surfing but couldn't come up with anything definitive for MDAL – but there is much mention of butchers! I think too it may be something from WWII where rationing was rife and people could only afford mutton, but would try and make it tasty so it was more like the more superior lamb.


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