Definition: To proceed cautiously
Example: Roger found himself walking on eggshells when it came to telling his wife about his upcoming boys’ weekend in Las Vegas.
‘Walking on eggshells’ is interchangeable with ‘walking on eggs‘. Both phrases seem to have surfaced in the 1800s, but it is uncertain which came first. Both are purely descriptive in nature. You can imagine how cautiously you would have to proceed on eggshells. Equally, you can imagine how impossible it would be to walk on eggs without breaking them. Cautious politicians were often described as walking on eggs.
Iddy’s certainly not enjoying his walk. It doesn’t help that he doesn’t wear shoes. Its not that he refuses to wear them. The shoes refuse to stay on him. It might have to do with the fact that he has no discernible feet.
Definition: asked of somebody who is silent when expected to speak
Example: ‘What’s the matter with you two?” Mom asked her unusually silent children. “Cat got your tongue?”
Wow. This is a hotly debated one. Some sources swear on one origin while others trash that same explanation. Iddy will just give you a list and you can make up your own mind….
- In a strange form of capital punishment, ancient Egyptians cut off the tongues of blasphemers and fed them to cats. Really? Is there a shred of truth in there anywhere?
- In the Middle Ages, witches’ familiars, including cats, were purported to steal the power of speech from their victims so their crimes couldn’t be reported.
- Another myth from the Middle Ages. Cats, attracted by the smell of milk on babies’ breath, would cuddle up to them and smother them to death. Nice, that one.
- Now we jump forward in time to the years that the English Navy ruled the waves. A popular form of punishment (not for the crew, I’m sure) was the cat’o’nine tails, a whip made up of nine separate lengths of knotted cotton. It was known simply as ‘the cat’. Now this one theory veers off into two slight variants. One claims that the sailor, after his punishment, was silent. The second claims that if the sailor made any utterance during the lashings, he would get more, so they would grimace silently through the agony.
Is there any truth in any of these? Who knows.
What do you think, Iddy?
What’s the matter, Iddy? Cat got your tongue?
Definition: To accomplish something convincingly
Example: Johnny passed his second driving test with flying colours. His first test had not been promising. There were still seven people in hospital.
The phrase ‘with flying colours‘ can be preceded by a number of words; ‘pass‘, ‘come through‘, ‘win‘, etc. All of the combinations mean ‘to succeed‘.
But what are these colours?
They have a naval origin. Ships used flags as a means of communication. Returning to port, victorious naval craft advertised their success with their flags unfurled for all to see. They would be ‘flying their colours‘. In contrast, a defeated ship would come into port with her flags lowered. She would be ‘striking her colours‘.
There are a number of further colour related idioms, all relating to naval flag use:
- ‘Nail your colours to your mast‘ Flags fastened in such a way could not be lowered. It means to take a stand and not surrender.
- ‘Under false colours’ This means to deceive and is thought to relate to pirate ships using flags to trick other craft into coming near.
- ‘Go down with flying colours’ This is the only negative usage of our original idiom, meaning to fight to the end.
Iddy just wants his paint back. He’s never going to get that dining room redecorated at this rate.