Behind the words-Thanksgiving Idioms

As a writer, I am always interested in the history of words and expressions. While some are steeped in the darker sides of history, many are just expressions that have withstood the test of time. Today I wanted to highlight a few Thanksgiving idioms.

“I’m Stuffed”

While the expression means to be full, or unable to eat any more, the term was used as early as 1400 meaning full, cram full; fill the belly. So, when you are resting after your second plate on Thanksgiving, know that you are following a 600-year tradition!

“Stuffed Shirt”

The expression means to act in a formal way with the expectation to be treated as an important or high-profile person. The earliest documented use of this expression was in 1840 to describe a formally dressed look of a person.

“A Blessing in Disguise”

The phrase, a blessing in disguise, was recorded as early as 1746. It means something unfortunate or bad that has happened at first but turns out to have a positive outcome.

“A Mixed Blessing”

An event that has its advantages and disadvantages. The first citation of this phrase is dated in 1933, in Discovery (October issue): “The introduction of European influences may prove a mixed blessing.” This relatively new idiom has been used throughout the last 87 years.

“Count Your Blessings”

The ancient Jewish tradition is to try and get to 100 blessings a day. The expression, count your blessings, started with people attempting to count their blessings to find 100 of them. Today we use it as a reminder to be grateful for what we have.

“Talking Turkey”

This phrase started in colonial times. Historical accounts suggest the phrase came about from the day to day bartering between colonists and Indians over wild turkeys. It means to talk about a problem with the intent of finding a solution.

“Going Cold Turkey”

This expression first appeared in the Daily Colonist in British Columbia in 1921. “Perhaps the most pitiful figures who have appeared before Dr. Carleton Simon… are those who voluntarily surrender themselves. When they go before him, they are given what is called the ‘cold turkey’ treatment.

“Gobble Up”

This ancient term came to be in the 1600’s. It means to eat greedily, swallow hastily. Fun fact about the phrase, it is based on the word gob which was used in the early 15th century. Gobble as in “make a turkey noise,” started around the 1670s, probably imitative, perhaps influenced by gobble or gargle. As a noun from 1781.

“Food Coma”

We’ve all over done it once or twice on Thanksgiving. As much as we attempt to place the blame on the turkey, the holiday bird contains no more of the amino acid tryptophan than other kinds of poultry. The word coma comes from the Greek word meaning ‘deep sleep’. The phrase food coma was coined in the 1980s for the drowsiness due to a large amount of food the body is attempting to digest.

“Eyes Bigger Than Your Stomach”

This 1500’s phrase is still commonly used today though in British English; it is sad as ‘One’s eyes are bigger than one’s belly’. If you’ve ever made a plate and piled on the Thanksgiving trimmings, but were unable to eat it, your eyes were bigger than your stomach!

“The Rest is Gravy”

This fun phrase started in the early 1900s and referred to easy money, or easy financial situations. The meaning equates to a bonus or something extra from the initial want. Today its broad use can have many meanings, but the general use is to describe something on top of a good deal.

“Hot Potato”

While most people love hot potatoes, especially slathered with butter and sour cream, the phrase originated in the mid-1800s and started as ‘to drop like a hot potato’ which meant to abandon something hastily.

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