Sunday, April 15, 2012

N - No great shakes, Nothing to sneeze at, No dice


Welcome back to week 3 of the A-Z Challenge!  Today's idioms are brought to you by the letter 'N'.

1.  That restaurant was no great shakes.  

Meaning:  nothing extraordinary, mediocre. 

Origin:  This expression is used as early as the 17th century.  Lord Broughton, recalling an 1816 art show in his 'Recollections of a Long Life' , wrote: 'W. said that a piece of sculpture there was 'nullae magnae quassationes,' and the others laughed heartily.' The others, proficient linguists, got the joke immediately when they translated the Latin for 'no great shakes.'  Shakes, itself, is thought to refer to the shaking of dice.  Someone with “no great shakes” is someone who throws a low point, receiving no sevens or elevens.

2.  Getting second place is nothing to sneeze at!

Meaning:  something may appear modest or trivial, but it’s at least somewhat impressive in its own right.

The root of “sneeze” was the Old English verb “fneosan,” which meant “to sneeze or snort,” and came from Germanic root (as far back as 1400s).  “To sneeze at,” as is used today, first appeared in the early 19th century.  This form of contempt is a deliberate act, while sneezing usually isn’t.  That’s because sneezing, in this respect, refers back to the Old English reference of “snorting.”

3.  I wanted to borrow ten dollars, but Mom said, “no dice.”

Meaning:  No.

Origin:  This is a US phrase and originated there in the early 20th century. Gambling with dice was illegal in many states and so gamblers went to some pains to hide the dice when challenged by the police. Courts would sometimes throw out cases if the dice weren't offered in evidence. There are several court records where gamblers were alleged to have swallowed dice to avoid arrest. 

37 comments:

  1. Hmmm. Never heard of that no great shakes one. Does anyone these days use that one?

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    1. I have a friend who says it all the time, but he's the same guy (in his 20's, no less) who wears a pork pie hat, has a smoking jacket, and enjoys smoking an old fashioned pipe. He's married to one of my best friends and is a local sheriff's deputy.

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  2. Very interesting origin for "no great shakes." I never would have guessed that's where the expression came from.

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  3. I always thought "No dice" was a pretty weird one. Might be because I am English lol!

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    1. Must be. J/K. I thought it was weird too. Makese sense now.

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  4. I'd not heard of no great shakes. I like the origin though.

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  5. That no dice one is really fascinating. I had no idea, but it's so logical :-)

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    1. It is, and yet, at the same time, I never would have guessed it had to do with literally hiding dice.

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  6. the sneezing/snorting reminds me of kids putting a derogatory word into their sneeze... sometimes funny =)

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    1. Umm...I sometimes do that, too. Did it just last week to my husband, but I think I was trying to hide something from my daughter (Little pitchers have big ears, after all - another idiom I learned).

      I never grew up, I don't think. Somebody called me ma'am the other day and I almost kicked them in the shins. :)

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  7. I think I use 'no great shakes' quite a bit. Don't like the sound of swallowing dice. Ouch!
    A to Z of Nostalgia

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    1. Nice, someone who uses it. That's awesome!

      Yeah, just thinking about swallowing dice is giving me indigestion.

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  8. Never heard of the shakes one. Knew of the others though.

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    1. Cool!

      I posted above that I'd only heard it by my friend's husband who is in his 20's, but sometimes acts like he's from the 1920's. LOL.

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  9. Okay, so I've been using these lately and the hubs thinks I'm totally nuts. But knowing a whole bunch of new phrases is nothing to sneeze at. ;)

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    1. That's great! And pish-posh on the totally nuts, thing.

      Nothing wrong with learning a bunch of new words to incorporate in your writing. :D

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  10. I've used the nothing to sneeze at line in a novel, and as I was typing it I wondered "Where the heck did they come up with that?" Why not say "nothing to laugh at?" Ended up changing it to the latter. Now I think I'd feel safe using the original since I know the meaning. :)

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  11. Now that sounds like an interesting character! (I hadn't heard that one before, either.)

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    1. Yeah, he's interesting all right. LOL.

      I've also seen him walk around in an old sytle golfer's uniform with the pom-pom on the hat and the argyle shirt and socks. And he wasn't golfing. He's a trip, but just a fun person to be around.

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  12. SWALLOW the dice? That's dedicated.

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    1. Hey, people swallow drugs to try to avoid police detection. I can see gamblers swallowing their dice for the same reasons. :D

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  13. Every part of my digestive tract from beginning to end hurts just thinking about swallowing dice.

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  14. I remember trying to teach some of these idioms to friends in Turkey. Talk about confusion. I should just point them to your site!

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    1. Did your friends in Turkey try to teach you any of their's in return? They'd probably confuse us, too. :D

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  15. Guess second place isn't something to snort at either!

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  16. I like how you're often finding idioms in the same letter category that are also related in origin - like gambling today.!

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    1. LOL, I really tried to find a third about gambling, but could get no confirmed proof that the one I was researching was about gambling, so I had to scrap a theme-day.

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  17. What a clever thing to do for A to Z challenge. I liked your post. And btw, thanks for stopping by my blog.

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  18. I love how my perception of these terms is often really quite different than their origin! Fascinating source of "no dice"!

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