Definition: Correct your behaviour or attitude/ make a better effort

Example: Having missed two shifts in a row, Doug’s boss told him to pull his socks up or he would be looking for a new job. Ironically, Doug worked at a sock manufacturing company.


As usual, there are a couple of theories as to how this idiom came to be. No surprise there.

First, it may have to do with children presenting themselves neatly in their school uniforms, originating in the Victorian era. You can imagine a headmaster barking out those orders. “Button that blazer! Straighten that tie! Pull up those socks!”

Secondly, and more widely accepted, it has to with running. Long before the era of artificial fibres and designer trainers/ running shoes, competitive runners wore long socks with their shoes. It wasn’t really a good look, but fashion at the time demanded it. In preparation for the starting blocks, the athletes would make their last minute adjustments, including pulling up those ungainly socks. The fashion and the entry of the phrase into the English language tie up quite neatly in the 1800’s.

Iddy’s having some difficulty pulling up his own socks. It may have something to do with having no feet.


Definition: When a situation that is already bad or irritating gets even worse

Example: When Joe’s car broke down in the pouring rain in the middle of nowhere, he discovered he’d forgotten to charge his phone as well. “That takes the biscuit!” was his response. Actually, there were some other words too, but we can’t publish them here.


In the UK, a situation ‘takes the biscuit’.

In the US, the same situation ‘takes the cake’.

The idiom seems to have originated as cake Stateside before travelling across the Atlantic to become a biscuit. But why a cake in the first place?

It seems to have similar origins to ‘Piece of Cake’, which we have covered previously here. In that exploration, we heard of a demeaning slave state practice, where pairs of slaves were walked around a cake, and the pair deemed to have done so with the most style, won that cake. How the meaning went from a positive one (if you can see it that way, having won a cake through a demeaning contest) to a wholly negative one is unclear. Perhaps this isn’t the root of this idiom at all.

Iddy is blissfully ignorant of all of this. This particular biscuit will keep him fed for at least two meals. Now all he needs is a giant glass of milk or several litres of hot tea to go with it.