About Me

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My friends call me the "grammar goddess." Really. ;-) I own a freelance writing, editing and tutoring business. Previously, I served three years as food editor for The Morning Sun in Mt. Pleasant, which kindled my interest in food writing. My other areas of expertise in writing include features, community news, architecture/construction and engraving/personalization. I have a frightening number of cookbooks and watch too many DIY, HGTV, Food Network, Cooking Channel and Antiques Roadshow (BBC and PBS versions) shows. And I tweak nearly every recipe I make.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Food as Idiom, or "In the Soup"

I don't know if you have noticed, but there are many food-related idoms that have made our way into the English language (many via the French channel, which isn't surprising, given the Norman invasion and the one-time supremacy of French cooking as a symbol of refined taste). The origins of various words and phrases simply fascinates me, so you're in for it now.

I've always thought it was interesting to state someone's "in the soup" to mean that they are in trouble. I had always supposed it was because the soup was scalding or they couldn't swim. See Barry Popik's The Big Apple for some interesting details about the phrase, which possibly originated in a restaurant or on the baseball field, but (quel suprise) was popularized in New York due to a controversial election year.  

Another descriptive (and similar) food metaphor is to say someone's "out of the frying pan and into the fire." According to Answers.com, it means "from a bad situation to one that is much worse. ... This expression, a proverb in many languages, was first recorded in English in 1528." The entry also notes similar idioms exist elsewhere. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire" also is a song title by Meat Loaf, circa 1993, a fact which I had forgotten.

For detailed comments about other common expressions, such as "the apple of my eye," "not worth his salt" and "a red herring," check out an August article in Smithsonian Magazine here.

You also could check out A Hog on Ice by Charles E. Funk, a wonderful classic on the topic of word and phrase origins, or the columns of my all-time favorite, Evan Morris, aka The Word Detective.

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