CHIP ON HIS SHOULDER

Definition: An angry outlook fostered by a grievance, grudge, or low self-esteem.

Example: “Don’t mind him,” Lois told her secretary. “John’s got a chip on his shoulder since I beat him in the hot dog eating competition.”

 Origin:

First of all, chips aren’t sexist. They can sit on her shoulder as easily as his.

Secondly, the chip referred to is a wood chip, not one made of deep fried potato, nor the kind Iddy models here, a silicon chip.

As for the chip’s origin, there appear to be two possibilities:

  1. In the 1700s, dockyard workers in England had job benefits other workers did not. They were allowed to take scrap wood from the construction and repair of ships home, for construction or firewood. Specifically, the Navy Council declared in 1739 that they could remove as much as they could carry upon their shoulder (subject to inspection by their superiors, of course). Later, that allowance was reduced to as much as they could carry under one arm. This became a grievance among the dockers. So, it appears we have all the elements needed to form our idiom. Chips. Shoulders. Grievances. One little hitch though. There is close to 200 years between this episode and the arrival of our phrase around 1930.
  2. It is more likely it is derived from  manly shenanigans in the US during the 1800s. There was a custom of placing a small piece of wood (or chip) upon your shoulder and daring others to knock it off, followed by more serious fighting involving fists, kicks, and broken teeth. Sounds very entertaining. Remember. These fellows didn’t have 94 episodes of Sex and the City to entertain them.

Iddy had a very difficult time illustrating this idiom. Mainly because he really doesn’t have shoulders….

GREEN THUMB

Definition: Skilled at gardening/growing plants

Example: Simone definitely possessed a green thumb. Her sunflowers were so large, she was going to need a chainsaw to cut them down.

Origin:

Gardeners were originally described  as having ‘green fingers‘ in the UK in the 1930s. In the US, the phrase surfaced as ‘green thumb‘ a decade later, where it has remained the sole term. Meanwhile, back in the UK, ‘green thumb‘ appeared alongside its original incarnation, and both are used today.

Its no great stretch of the imagination to make the connection between green fingers or thumbs and somebody who works in a garden. It is said to specifically relate to the handling of clay pots, where the green algae that builds up along their rim stains the handler’s hands.

A widely disputed origin claims it relates to King Edward I. Apparently he loved green peas. Kitchen staff were put into competition to find who could shell the most peas, the best sheller receiving a prize. All the participants were rewarded with green stained thumbs for their efforts.

Iddy doesn’t think this sounds plausible. If hundreds of hours of watching TV has taught him one thing, it is that Kings don’t love green peas. They love beheadings and getting rid of their wives. In fact, a King likes nothing more than an activity that combines both of those.

Iddy also had a bit of difficulty illustrating this idiom. After all, he already has a green thumb. If you want to be really picky about his interpretation, he’s actually illustrating a ‘greener thumb.’