May is National Egg Month. How many of these egg-spressions do you use?
This content was developed by Dictionary.com, one of our favorite resources for words and word fun. Egghead
This term entered English as a reference to a bald person. But it gained traction in the 1952 presidential campaign as a pejorative term for “intellectual,” used to describe Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson (who was bald) and his followers. Stevenson responded cheekily, “Via ovum cranium difficilis est,” roughly translated as “the way of the egghead is hard.”
Egg Someone On
This expression, meaning “to incite or urge; encourage,” has nothing to do with eggs. Instead, it derive from the Old Norse word eggja with a similar verbal meaning.
A flatterer or sycophant.
Go Suck An Egg
American slang, meaning “get lost.”
Originally, “egghead” referred to a bald person. Photo courtesy Fresh Direct.
Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Photo by Andrea Kratzenberg | SXC.
Have Egg On One’s Face
This expression conveys humiliation or embarrassment, resulting from having said or done something foolish or unwise. It came into usage in the mid-1900s, and its origins are uncertain. One theory is that it evolved from teenage slang, and that it referenced a messy manner of eating that might leave food around one’s mouth.
Lay An Egg
This expression means to be unsuccessful, especially in front of an audience. Its origins are obscure, but its association with failure had been firmly established in the lexicon by the early to mid-1900s, as evidenced by Variety magazine’s famous headline from October 30, 1929, the day after the stock market crash: “Wall St. Lays an Egg.”
This phrase been around since the late 1500s. When it entered English, it referred to an actual egg placed in a nest to induce a hen to continue laying eggs; it was often used in figurative contexts to refer to an object used as a decoy or an inducement. Today, it refers to money saved for emergencies, retirement, etc.
Put All One’s Eggs In One Basket
English speakers have been using this turn of phrase, if not heeding its wisdom, since the mid-1600s. This idiomatic expression means to venture all of something that one possesses in a single enterprise. It is often used in negative constructions, such as “don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” to caution against the risk of such behavior.
Teach Your Grandmother To Suck Eggs
This curious expression emerged in the 1700s, meaning to presume to teach someone something that he or she knows already (i.e., elders know more than their juniors imagine). Its first recorded use was Henry Fielding’s “Tom Jones,” published in 1749.
Walk On Eggs
This expression means to walk or act very cautiously, especially so as not to offend or upset anyone. The expression first appeared in the 1740s as “trod upon eggs.” By the mid-1800s, people were walking on eggshells in addition to eggs. Around 1990 this changed, and the expressions “walking on eggshells” skyrocketed in use, while “walking on eggs” waned in popularity.