Oct 192012


The Solution of the Last PICIDOMS



Expression 001: COST AN ARM AND A LEG

Origin: This is another idiom which has a “mythic” origin. www.phrases.org.uk explains: “portrait painters used to charge more for larger paintings and that a head and shoulders painting was the cheapest option, followed in price by one which included arms and finally the top of the range a ‘legs and all’ portrait.” But there is no evidence that this is a true story. The web site continues to say “It is in fact an American phrase, coined sometime after WWII. The earliest citation I can find is from The Long Beach Independent, December 1949: Food Editor Beulah Karney has more than 10 ideas for the homemaker who wants to say “Merry Christmas” and not have it cost her an arm and a leg. ‘Arm’ and ‘leg’ are used as examples of items that no one would consider selling other than at an enormous price. 100 years earlier a similar expression came into use, give my right arm for. This could be the source of the idea.

Usage: Informal, spoken, general American and British English

Idiomatic Meaning: To have a very high and expensive price, be almost priceless.

Literal Meaning: To lose an actual arm and leg as the price for something

Why is this funny? The cartoon features a family of starfish. These are known to have the power of regeneration, meaning the ability to regrow a section of themselves.The cartoon starfish have a head, two arms and two legs (actual starfish have none of these). The male starfish must have wanted a new flat screen TV very badly because he literally paid an arm and a leg for it. He tried to convince his wife that it was worth the high price because his arm and leg would grow back, regenerate. She is not pleased.

Sample sentence: This new house costs an arm and a leg because it’s in a good neighborhood.

Expression 002: DEAD WEIGHT

Origin: There are a number of origins of the term dead weight. Sometimes it’s spelled as one word. According the American Heritage Dictionary it dates back to the 17th century. It is also related to the engineering term dead load meaning any of the forces that a structure is calculated to oppose, comprising any unmoving and unvarying force. The Collins Dictionary tells us that it’s the difference between the loaded and the unloaded weights of a ship. Also in transport in general it’s the weight of a railroad car, truck, etc., as distinct from its load or contents.

Usage: Informal, spoken, general American and British English

Idiomatic Meaning: Someone or something that prevents other people from making progress;an oppressive burden.

Literal Meaning: A solid heavy weight of anything which is not living.

Why is this funny? Here is another double-barreled cartoon combining the literal with the idiomatic meaning. We see a funeral. The deceased is a dumbbell. We laugh because dumbbell is slang for a dummy, a stupid person. As we read the eulogy, the speech said over a dead person. It’s clear that the dumbbell had other issues too. He was a big burden on the company, causing problems. So we learn that the dead weight was himself a dead weight.

Sample sentence: My brother-in-law was no help at our store. He was a dead weight on the business.

Expression 003: PAIN IN THE ASS

Origin: The expression goes back to 1911 as American slang; anything annoying or bothersome can be described giving one, “a pain”, often elaborated to “a pain in the neck/back/arm etc. In the search for stronger or more colorful language, another variant appeared, “pain in the rear end”, then “pain in the ass. Eventually the expression migrated to England and became “pain in the arse.” Nowadays one often hears “pain in the butt,” which could prompt another diversion into linguistic history. The word “arse” itself comes from Old English with Germanic and possibly even Latin roots. “Ass” can be traced at least to 1860 as nautical slang. It’s an American dialect pronunciation of “arse”. But this pronunciation and double usage referring to a donkey, goes all the way back to Middle English and Shakespeare. [Source: phrases.org.uk and etymonline.com]

Usage: Informal, spoken, general American and British English

Idiomatic Meaning: someone or something that is annoying, irritating, boring or in some other way, unpleasant.

Literal Meaning: An ass is the same thing as a donkey. A pain in the ass means that the donkey has a pain.

Why is this funny? As you can see, Mr. Sugar thinks he has a pain in his ass. This is also evidenced by the sign hanging on the wall of Dr. Biscuit’s office. The doctor is a “proctologist”, specializing in ailments of the buttocks or ass. And the Ass is very annoying to the doctor because he’s a hypochondriac, imagining that he’s sick. So the Ass is also a pain in the ass to Dr. Biscuit.

Sample sentence: The student was a pain in the ass by constantly insisting that the teacher should give him a better grade.


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