I Know That Expression! (Part 7)

Here are a few of my favorite entries, all beginning with the letter “G," from Word and Phrase Origins, a thoroughly delightful book published in 1997.

Game's not worth the candle. Before electricity, nighttime card games were played by candle. Many of these games were penny ante, and disparaged by high-stakes gamblers as not worth the cost of the candle.

Get one's back up. This expression, describing a person who is angry, was inspired by the aggressive arching of an angry cat's back. Although cats have been around much longer, this phrase has been used for only a couple of centuries.

GIGO. GIGO--garbage in, garbage out-- is a catchphrase coined in the 1960s, when computers were first widely used for data processing. By the way, it's pronounced with a long I---GUY-GO.

Gobbledygook. Maury Maverick (great name) coined the word in 1944, when he was a member of Congress. He wrote a memo condemning obscure, verbose, and bureaucratic language as gobbledygook, later explaining that he was thinking of the gobbling of turkeys while they strutted pompously.

Golf links. Golf courses were originally built on ridges of flat land along the seashore. They were called links from the Old English blinc (ridge of land).

A note about the author: Word and Phrase Origins was written by Robert Hendrickson, now 85 years old and the author of more than 25 other books, including American Literary Anecdotes, New York Tawk, and More Cunning than Man: A Social History of Rats and Men.

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