Three Eggy Idioms for Easter

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Happy Easter! If you need a break from all the chocolate, why not have a look at these eggy idioms and their origin stories?

  1. A bad egg

    A ‘bad egg’ is someone who is disappointing or a bad influence.

    Here is the idiom used in an example sentence:
    • James fell in with a group of bad eggs who got him in trouble.

The idiom certainly derives from the irritation felt when cracking an egg only to find it has gone off. One early use of the phrase is in this 1856 issue of the Milwaukee Daily American:

"Mayor Wood is moving heaven and earth to procure his renomination. One of his dodges is, to get up letters in the newspaper, pretending to emanate from 'distinguished citizens,' including merchants, mechanics and working men, soliciting him in the most pathetic terms to present himself to the dear people. There are also on the list a number of notorious blacklegs whom Woods keeps in pay. He is a bad egg."

  1. A curate’s egg

    This idiom describes something that is partly good and partly bad. In some cases, the implication is that someone is describing something as good out of politeness rather than because that is what they actually think.

    Here is the idiom used in an example sentence:
    • The book was a bit of a curate’s egg – it started well but the ending was disappointment.

The phrase originates fromTrue Humility’, a cartoon by George du Maurier printed in an 1895 issue of Punch magazine.

In the cartoon, the curate is desperately searching for something kind to say about the bad egg:

Right Reverend Host. "I’m afraid you've got a bad Egg, Mr. Jones!"
The Curate. "Oh no, my Lord, I assure you! Parts of it are excellent!"

  1. To egg someone on

    If you egg someone on, it means you encourage or urge them to do something.

    Here is the idiom used in an example sentence:
    • The other boys egged James on until he too decided to throw a stone at Mr. Brown’s car window.

    Interestingly, this phrase has actually got nothing to do with eggs! In this case, ‘egg’ is another way of saying ‘edge’ which comes from the Old Norse ‘eggia’ meaning ‘to goad on’ or to‘incite’. The word ‘egg’ was used as a verb in this ways from c.1200. The phrase ‘egg on’ was used by Thomas Drant’s 1566 translation Horace his Arte of Poetrie, Pistles and Satyrs Englished: "Ile egge them on to speake some thyng, whiche spoken may repent them."

For more Easter fun, click here.

Have a lovely weekend!

The Online Etymology Dictionary
The Phrase Finder

13 Apr 2017
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