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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Way with Words

Yesterday morning when I logged into Meebo, two very interesting questions were waiting for the reference staff. I’m not sure if they are from the same person, but they both inquire about background information about two colorful sayings. I’d never heard of either of the phrases before, so I set out to see what I could find.

The first question asks about the origin of the phrase “that’s a lot of sugar for a dime.” My search first led me to the dictionaries and thesauruses in our reference collection, where little light was shed on the nature of this phrase. A search of our electronic databases yielded a similar result, unfortunately. So, I turned to the Internet, a trusty companion in a situation like this.  Google did not let me down. It turns out that the actual phrase is “that’s too much sugar for a dime,” and there’s actually a website that uses the saying as its moniker. According to the site, the saying means that something is more trouble than it’s worth. I also found another site called The Phrase Finder that offered some different interpretations about the meaning of the phrase. The site has a forum where members use their collective intelligence take on phrases with elusive meanings. For “too much sugar for a dime”, one guest suggested that the phrase meant that something was too good to be true. Similarly, another contributor said it meant “overwhelming or false praise.”

Now on to the second Meebo question: What’s the origin of the phrase “son of a biscuit-eater”? According to Rawson’s Dictionary of Euphemisms and Other Doubletalk, the phrase is a variant of a nearly identical, more popular phrase. The phrase most people are probably more familiar with uses another b-word in place of “biscuit-eater”, one that I can’t spell out here on this blog. Let’s just say it’s another word for a female canine and leave it at that.

So there you have it, Meebo guest (or guests). I hope this answers your questions. If not, or if you have more questions, feel free to comment on this post or drop us a line at mlcref@mlc.lib.ms.us.

1 comment:

  1. My mother's (born 1899) use of the phrase "too much sugar for a dime" definitely meant "more trouble than it was was worth." We always used it in that context (and still do), however it never made real sense to me when I tried to break it down!
    I would think it would have read "not enough sugar for a dime"! Wouldn't you?

    ReplyDelete

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