Tuesday, April 18, 2006


Wolf in sheep's clothing

(originally posted April 9th, 2006)

Definition: someone that looks friendly, but has a hidden agenda that will be bad for you

Example: Beware of any e-mail you receive that promise things too good to be true, even if it came from people you recognize. Those e-mails may be wolves in sheep's clothing.

Origin: Another Bible-derived saying... Matthew 7:15 "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."

Chinese Version: 笑裡藏刀﹖


Go the extra mile

(Originally posted April 9, 2006)

Definition: Go above and beyond what is needed/required

Example: "To get more customers, we must go the extra mile, do the things beyond what is expected of us. If we don't, we won't stand out, and customers can go anywhere else."

Origin: This one came from the Bible, specifically, Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, when He said, "And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain." (Matthew 5:41) Thus, you went the extra mile.


Why buy the cow when the milk is free?

(originally posted April 8, 2006)

Meaning: Why tie yourself down with a contract when you can get the benefits without such a contract?

WARNING: Only used by males, the meaning BEHIND the words


Pick (your) brain

Originally posted April 7th, 2006

Definition: Need (your) thoughts/opinions (on something)

Example 1: John? Can you stay a moment? I need to pick your brain on this upcoming project.

Example 2: You're busy? I'll go pick Valerie's brain then. Thanks.


Close, but no cigar

(originally posted April 6th, 2006)

Definition: close to the goal, but not quite.

A: (Panting) "I ... almost ... beat you!"
B: (Panting, shaking head) "Close, ... but ... no cigar."

Origin: One explanation was that travelling carnival shows have those "strength contests" where the player picks up a jackhammer and hits a lever as hard as he could. The other end of the lever is under a weight. If the player can hit the lever hard enough, the weight will be popped all the way up to hit a bell, thus causing a loud "ding". If he can "ring" the bell, he'll get a cigar as a reward. Thus, if he came close, it's "close, but no cigar."


Take a leak; take a dump

(originally posted April 5th, 2006)

Take a leak = 上二號,go peepee. :)
Take a dump = 上一號

Example: "Can you hold my spot in the line? I need to take a leak."

NOTE: Should only be used by male speakers, as this is crude language. Do NOT use in formal settings, as this is extremely colloquial, and can be considered slang.


Nuke it from orbit

(bonus entry for April 4th, 2006)

Definition: actually a shortened version of "Nuke it from orbit; it's the only way to be sure." It means to wipe it all out and start over, often due to some sort of infection / pandemic / contagion

Example: "When you are dealing with rootkits and some advanced spyware programs, the only solution is to rebuild from scratch. In some cases, there really is no way to recover without nuking the systems from orbit,"
--Mike Danseglio, program manager in the Security Solutions group at
Microsoft, as cited in eWeek

Explanation / Origin: 從衛星軌道﹐釋放核子彈,把行星地面炸平,所有的生物都殺了,從頭開始

Probably came from a science fiction book, not sure which one


Jump down (one's) throat

(Originally posted April 4th, 2006)

Definition: Being extremely angry or impatient at someone, vigorous verbal attack on someone, often unexpected on the part of the victim

Example 1: John and I were just talking. However, I must have touched a sore topic, because he immediately started to jump down my throat.

Example 2: When the man came home a third time smelling of gin, his wife jumped down his throat.


Go easy (on someone/something)

(originally posted April 3, 2006)

Definition 1: "go easy" on someone is to o be lenient, to be gentle, to punish less

Definition 2: "go easy" on something is to take less, use less, etc.

Example 1: From the movie Equilibrium

[They = the government]
Preston: "I'll make sure they go easy on you."
Partridge: "We both know they never go easy."
Preston: "Then I am sorry."

Example 2: "Go easy on the champagne. It has a kick to it that sneaks up on you."
(Don't drink too much champagne. You don't feel its effects until much later.)


Biting the hand that feeds you

(originally posted April 2, 2006)

Definition: 1) Turning on your master/superior who has never mistreated you; 2) Turning on your benefactor ; 3)Hurting someone who was/has been helping you

Example 1: "Rufus deserved what he got. He bit the hand that fed him, in a manner of

Example 2: "Never bite that hand that feeds you. You may need it later."

Origin: Unclear, probably came from a dog owner. Supposed Greek poet Sopho first used this expression back in 600 B.C., but first recorded English use is 1711. Unfortunately neither reference had any examples.

Chinese Equivalent: 狗咬魯洞賓﹐不識好歹 (?)


Takes one to know one

(Originally posted March 1, 2006)

Definition: The person talking about it knows what he's talking about, because he had
done it before, or was in similar situations before, or knows the person being discussed.

Example: The "good" hackers, known as "white-hat" hackers, are quite effective in
catching malicious hackers. After all, it takes one to know one.

(In this case, it means it takes a hacker to understand another hacker.)


Up (one's) sleeve

(originally posted March 31st, 2006)

Definition: hidden, secretive, concealed

Example: "I was told you are organizing the surprise party for Jim. What do you have up your sleeve?"

Origin: This is actually a short form of "an ace up one's sleeve", which refers to
playing cards, and cheating. As an Ace is the biggest card in most card games (poker, etc.) if you can hide an Ace and can produce it at the right time, you will win! And one of the easiest places to hide an Ace is up in one's sleeve. For that reason, most card magicians now wear short-sleeve shirts, or roll up their sleeves before performing their card tricks.


Play it by ear

(Originally posted March 30, 2006)

Definition: adapt to the circumstances, extemporize

A: "Do you have any idea what to do next?"
B: "No, I'll just have to play it by ear."

Similar Sayings/Idioms:
We'll "make it up as we go (along)"
We'll "fly by the seat of our pants"

Origin: This expression is from music. Some musicians are so gifted, they can play a song just by listening to it once. Thus, they are "playing it by ear".

Chinese equivalent: 看著辦﹖ (any one got suggestions?)


Raining cats and dogs

(originally posted March 29, 2006)

Definition: It's raining very hard. It's a huge downpour.

Example: Can you believe this weather? One moment it's sunny, and next moment it's raining cats and dogs!

Origin: There are several stories of how this phrase got started. Some say it's related to tornadoes, how it can carry away anything and drop them, but why just cats and dogs?

Another tale says that the expression was originally "cats and ducks", but later was corrupted to "cats and dogs". Cats are mentioned for relation to witchcraft, and ducks for relation to water.

Yet another tale says that in old English houses, the roof is low enough that cats and dogs can jump on there, but in a heavy downpour they'd be washed off, and if you're inside it'd look like it's raining cats and dogs.

Warning: Do NOT be cute and try to subsitute other animals, or even specific breeds.
It's NOT funny when you say "it's raining calicos and dobermans." (Well, maybe it is sort of funny that way...)


Take/Get a raincheck

(Originally posted March 28, 2006)

Definition: A promise by the merchant to sell you an item for the sale price even when he doesn't have any in stock, and he may not have any until the sale is over.

Alternate meaning: to postpone something

Example 1: We apologize that our shipment of the TV that was supposed to be on sale has not arrived yet. Would you take a rain check? You can come back when we do have it in, and you will still pay the lower price.

Or from the other side...

Example 2: You were supposed to have the TV's that are on sale, but you don't. Does that mean I get a rain check?

Example 3: I am afraid something just came up, and I won't be able to go to the movie with you guys. Can you guys take a rain check?

Origin : American baseball organizers started issuing "rain checks" in 19th century for games that were delayed/cancelled due to rain to spectators who have purchased tickets. The rain checks are good for a game in the future.


Cat is out of the bag

(Originally posted March 27, 2006)

Definition: The truth has been exposed, there is no purpose to the deception any more.

Usage Example: "Well, the cat's out of the bag. I may as well tell you the whole story."

Origin: The origin of this is rather debatable. Supposedly, it was to describe some unscrupulous butcher's deception. You order a piglet, and he gives you this sack, which he said contains a piglet. You didn't think much of it. You take it and walk home. On the way, the bag start to wiggle. You open the bag to take a look, and a cat leaps out of the bag and disappears before you blink. No piglet. Just a cat out of the bag.

On the other hand, how did the unscrupulous butcher got the cat into the bag in the first place? :)

Chinese Equivalent: 紙包不住火﹖


Cat got your tongue?

(Originally posted March 28, 2006)

NOTE: Always used as a question, do NOT use as a statement.

It's easier to show you how to use it, than to describe it.

A: "How's the rollercoaster ride?"
B: "..."
A: "What's the matter? Cat got your tongue?"
B: "...I'm trying to remember. It's so scary, I don't remember anything!"

Someone made a short film about this cat that can take body parts from a human... Guess what's the last part the cat needed...


You can't make a silk purse out of sow's ear

(originally posted March 27, 2006)

You can probably guess what that means, if you know what a "sow" is... A sow is a female pig, usually nursing a bunch of piglets.

Guessed what the meaning is yet?

Definition: If you used the wrong material, no matter what you do, you can't make it work.

Closest Chinese Equivalent Saying: 腐木不成材﹐perhaps?

Origin: Jonathan Swift first coined the phrase, but it was unsure where it was first publicized. And there are earlier variations that were documented by Alexander Barclay and Stephen Gosson. But Swift was generally acknowledge as the person who started using the modern form.

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