Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Cat's Out of the Bag by John Kahn

This little book explains the stories behind some everyday expressions. If you are into idioms, you will enjoy this book. Get down to the nitty gritty, now where did that one originate?
According to author John Carn, this familiar slang phrase, meaning "to discuss essential matters", arose in the United States in the 1960's. The theory is that nitty-gritty refers to the unclean scalp of a person living in squalor. A layer of grit and a colony of nits or lice tends to build up under the hair in such conditions, so if someone got down to the nitty-grityy, he was originally, perhaps, scratching at his scalp with his nails. From that image came the more general idea of probing beneath external appearances to reach the underlying problems.

Other expressions such as going for a song, hook, line and sinker, chalk and cheese, win hands down, peter out, and many more are explained in this book. The text is accompanied by ink illustrations and there is a handy index at the back.

Let the cat out of the bag

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