Monday, July 31, 2006

helenisms (not hellenism with two L's)

helenisms (not hellenism with two l's)

i love this site.
it perfectly compliments my morning cup of tea.
weekend update to come.

helenisms (not hellenism with two l's)

i love this site.
it perfectly compliments my morning cup of tea.
weekend update to come.

Helenisms:


The Backstory
Helen has a wonderful mind (in many ways!). One of its many talents is the spontaneous creation of Helenisms. Like Spoonerisms and Tom Swifties before them, Helenisms are their own aphorismic genre, with precise properties:
  • The phrase must be built of two well-known aphorisms or phrases, and these should usually be related in structure or meaning.
  • The phrase itself must be meaningful, and its meaning must be clear despite being an odd amalgam of its two constituent phrases.
The result is something that might well just pass by in conversation, as you understand its intended meaning as it is said. Upon closer examination, though, it is a marvel of recombinant linguistics.

The next section has a long list of Helenisms and their consituent phrases. Each was used in spontaneous speech - we haven't made any up. Most are from Helen herself, but a few are from others.

Here's an example:

Big man on the totem pole.
  • Big man on campus.
  • Low man on the totem pole.
See? Simple. Comprehensible. Listen to conversations around you. You'll hear them! And when you do, tell us.

The Helenisms Themselves
The smoke hasn't settled yet.
  • When the smoke clears ...
  • The dust hasn't settled yet.

In the long end ...

  • In the long run ...
  • In the end ...

Trick pony

  • Trick dog
  • One trick pony

Mending your bridges.

  • Mending your ways.
  • Burning your bridges.

... get our feet on the floor.

  • ... keep our feet on the ground.
  • ... get in on the ground floor.

Eats like a fish

  • Eats like a horse
  • Drinks like a fish

At ends with each other

  • At wit's end
  • At odds with each other

... spit and a prayer

  • Spit and a promise
  • On a wing and a prayer

Walking a fine balance

  • Walking a fine line
  • It's a fine balance

Crowning blow

  • Crowning glory
  • Fatal blow

We'll face that bridge when it comes

  • We'll cross that bridge when we come to it
  • Face the music

Wake up and fly right

  • Wake up and smell the coffee
  • Straighten up and fly right

Spin the dice

  • Spin the wheel
  • Roll the dice

It's in his ballpark now

  • It's in the right ballpark
  • It's in his court now

It pulled our sails out from under us.

  • It pulled the rug out from under us.
  • It took the wind out of our sails.

She's as sharp as a cucumber

  • She's as sharp as a tack
  • She's as cool as a cucumber

We'll burn that bridge when we come to it

  • We'll cross that bridge when we come to it
  • Burning your bridges

Half of one, six dozen of the other

  • Six of one, a half dozen of the other
  • Six of one, a half dozen of the other

He hit the nose on the head

  • Hit the nail on the head
  • On the nose

That's a tough cookie to crack

  • That's a tough nut to crack
  • That's the way the cookie crumbles

You can't change spots on an old dog

  • A leopard can't change his spots
  • You can't teach an old dog new tricks

Don't let the moss grow beneath your feet

  • Don't let the grass grow beneath your feet
  • Moss won't grow on a rolling stone

Up the shit without a paddle

  • Up shit creek
  • Up the creek without a paddle

It was an eleventh inning decision

  • An eleventh hour decision
  • The ninth inning

Down to the gun

  • Down to the wire
  • Under the gun

I'll have to bite my pride off

  • I'll have to swallow my pride
  • Bite your nose off to spite your face

No skin off their teeth

  • No skin off their nose
  • By the skin of their teeth

Don't put all your chickens in one hatch

  • Don't put all your eggs in one basket
  • Don't count your eggs before they hatch

One bad egg can rot the whole barrel

  • He's a bad egg
  • One bad apple can rot the whole barrel

We're going to have to get all our eggs in a row

  • Getting your ducks in a row
  • Putting all your eggs in one basket

I got the shaft end of the stick

  • I got the short end of the stick
  • I got the shaft

Slapped the book at him

  • Slap him in the face
  • Throw the book at him

He's got his fingers in many fires.

  • He's got his fingers in many pies.
  • He's got many irons in fire.

I've lost my trolley.

  • I've lost my marbles.
  • I've gone off my trolley (or rocker, depending on whether you're British or American).

She's a piece of art.

  • She's a piece of work.
  • She's a work of art.

Not the brightest candle in the deck.

  • Not the brightest candle on the cake.
  • Not the highest card in the deck.

Throwing the goose out with the bath water.

  • Throwing the baby our with the bathwater.
  • Killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Milk stop

  • Milk run
  • Pit stop

That's water over the bridge

  • That's water over the dam
  • That's water under the bridge

She worships the water he walks on

  • She worships the ground he walks on
  • He walks on water

Dull as dust

  • Dull as a doornail
  • Dry as dust
  • Rattling his chain

    • Rattling his cage
    • Yanking his chain

    That's a different kettle of ballgame

    • That's a different kettle of fish
    • That's a different ballgame

    Cutting shoestrings

    • Cutting corners
    • On a shoestring

    Take the bull by the horns and run with it

    • Take the bull by the horns
    • Take the ball and run with it

    Don't count the eggs in your basket

    • Don't count your chickens before they hatch
    • Don't put all your eggs in one basket

    Older than springtime

    • Older than dirt
    • Younger than springtime

    It's like pulling hair

    • It's like pulling teeth
    • She was pulling her hair out

    Pardon the pun on words

    • Pardon the pun
    • A play on words

    Runs like a Swiss train

    • Runs like a Swiss watch
    • At least he made the trains run on time

    Let's get to the bottom of the chase

    • Let's get to the bottom of this
    • Let's cut to the chase

    Typed it down

    • Typed it up
    • Wrote it down

    Smokes like a fish

    • Smokes like a chimney
    • Drinks like a fish

    Up to her head

    • Up to her ears
    • Over her head

    A red smoking gun

    • Caught red-handed
    • A smoking gun

    Breathed down her throat

    • Breathed down her neck
    • Climbed down her throat

    As exciting as watching grass dry

    • As exciting as watching grass grow
    • As exciting as watching paint dry

    This guy could come up with a cure for world peace, and he would still be known as the guy who ...

    • This guy could come up with a cure for cancer and he would still be known as the guy who ...
    • This guy could negotiate world peace and he would still be known as the guy who ...

    That's hot on my mind

    • That's a hot topic
    • That's been on my mind

    Head search

    • Head hunter
    • Web search

    Dancing for joy

    • Dancing in the street
    • Jumping for joy

    Dead smack in the middle

    • Dead center
    • Smack dab in the middle

    Under a crucible

    • Under a microscope
    • In a crucible

    Leave them in the dark

    • Leave them in the dust
    • In the dark

    Under his breath he's just kicking himself

    • Under his breath he's cursing himself
    • He's just kicking himself

    Every rose has a silver lining right beneath your nose

    • Every rose has a thorn
    • Every cloud has a silver lining
    • Happening right beneath your nose
    (Note the rare Triple Helenism!)

    Keep your ear to the grindstone

    • Keep your ear to the ground
    • Keep your nose to the grindstone

    You're a cheap thrill

    • You're a cheap date
    • It's a cheap thrill

    Getting the short end of the stick

    • Getting the short straw
    • Getting the wrong end of the stick

    Bright cookie

    • Bright boy
    • Sharp cookie

    Two left thumbs

    • Two left feet
    • All thumbs

    Putting them out of their mercy

    • Putting them out of their misery
    • Have mercy

    Stirs the boat

    • Stirs up trouble
    • Rocks the boat

    At crosshairs with each other

    • At odds with each other
    • In the crosshairs

    Skip to the chase

    • Skip to the end
    • Cut to the chase

    Getting buy-off

    • Getting buy-in
    • Getting sign-off

    I wasn't born on a turnip truck

    • I wasn't born yesterday
    • I didn't just fall off the turnip truck

    At the drop of a dime

    • At the drop of a hat
    • Stop on a dime

    The place to be and be seen

    • The place to be
    • The place to see and be seen

    Not the smartest cookie in the book

    • Not the smartest guy
    • Not a very sharp cookie
    • The oldest trick in the book
    (Note the rare Triple Helenism!)

    Under lock, stock and key

    • Under lock and key
    • Lock, stock and barrel

    Everything is well under hand

    • Everything is under control
    • Everything is well in hand

    Kick your feet back

    • Kick back
    • Put your feet up

    Let's flesh that in

    • Let's flesh that out
    • Let's fill that in

    The mobbia

    • The Mob
    • The mafia

    Pull the wool out from under them

    • Pull the wool over their eyes
    • Pull the rug out from under them

    Weapons of mass production

    • Weapons of mass destruction
    • Mass production

    Tear breaker

    • Tear jerker
    • Heart breaker

    Let's cut to the bottom of the chase

    • Let's get to the bottom of this
    • Let's cut to the chase

    She's lost her screws

    • She's lost her marbles
    • She's got a screw loose

    He's reaching at straws

    • His reach exceeds his grasp
    • He's grasping at straws

    Calm as a cucumber

    • Calm as a millpond
    • Cool as a cucumber

    We have a long road to go

    • We have a long road to travel
    • We have a long way to go

    Last meal and testament

    • Last meal
    • Last will and testament

    Last supper and testament

    • Last supper
    • Last will and testament

    Ahead of the case

    • Ahead of the game
    • On the case

    I see the end of the light

    • I have seen the light
    • I see the light at the end of the tunnel

    It's a canary in the mine field

    • It's a canary in a coal mine
    • It's a mine field

    See the carrot at the end of the tunnel

    • Dangle the carrot in front of him
    • See the light at the end of the tunnel

    First and foremost in my mind ...

    • First and foremost ...
    • Foremost in my mind ...

    That's a relief off my shoulders

    • That's a weight off my shoulders
    • That's a relief

    The sky is our oyster

    • The sky is the limit
    • The world in our oyster

    Stick that up your bum and smoke it!

    • Oh, stick it up your bum!
    • Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

    She is a piece of force to be reckoned with

    • She is a piece of work
    • She is a force to be reckoned with

    Getting up someone's wick

    • Getting up someone's nose
    • Getting on someone's wick

    We're committed to exploiting our own dog food.

    • We're committed to exploiting our own technology.
    • We're committed to eating our own dog food.

    I did a lot of horse and pony play

    • I did a lot of horseplay
    • I did a dog and pony show

    Baby pie

    • Baby doll
    • Cutie pie

    Hands off to that guy

    • Hats off to that guy
    • Give that guy a hand

    Taken for a loop

    • Taken by surprise
    • Knocked for a loop

    I'm preaching your song.

    • I'm preaching to the choir.
    • I'm singing your song.

    kill two birds with one bush

    • kill two birds with one stone
    • a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

    count all your chickens in one basket

    • count your chickens before they're hatched
    • put all your eggs in one basket

    kill two birds in one basket

    • kill two birds with one stone
    • put all your eggs in one basket

    count your chickens in the bush

    • a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
    • count your chickens before they're hatched

    kill two birds before they're hatched

    • kill two birds with one stone
    • count your chickens before they're hatched

    put all your birds in one bush

    • put all your eggs in one basket
    • a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

    back of my head calcuation

    • back of the envelope calculation
    • off the top of my head

    it's got momentum behind it

    • it's got momentum
    • we're standing behind it

    baked in concrete

    • half-baked
    • cast in concrete

    Too many chiefs in the pie

    • Too many chiefs; not enough Indians
    • He's got his fingers in too many pies

    I went home with my head between my legs.

    • I went home with my head in my hands
    • I went home with my tail between my legs

    All our ducks are lined up

    • All our ducks are in a row
    • It's all lined up

    Painting a roadmap

    • Painting a picture
    • Creating a roadmap

    Head cheese

    • Head man
    • Big cheese

    I was just thinking to myself

    • I was just thinking aloud
    • I was just talking to myself

    I'm not going over your back

    • I'm not going over your head
    • I'm not going behind your back

    The 11th minute

    • The 11th hour
    • The last minute

    We're out in the boondoggles on this one

    • We're out in the boonies on this one
    • This is a boondoggle

    It's more ammunition for the fire.

    • It's more fuel for the fire.
    • It's more ammunition for our argument.

    State-sponsored governments

    • State-sponsored terrorism
    • Rogue governments

    Right on the ball

    • Right on the money
    • On the ball

    Behind the covers

    • Behind the scenes
    • Under the covers

    Get your finger in gear.

    • Pull your finger out.
    • Get your arse in gear.

    It's not rocket surgery.

    • It's not rocket science.
    • It's not brain surgery.

    Happy as pie

    • Happy as a clam
    • Sweet as pie

    Right out of the bat

    • Right out of the chute
    • Right off the bat

    Over the deep end

    • Over the top
    • Off the deep end

    It does everything but the kitchen sink.

    • It does everything but pat you on the back.
    • It includes everything but the kitchen sink.

    Off the top of my bat

    • Off the top of my head
    • Right off the bat

    An equal playing field

    • Equal footing
    • A level playing field

    Walk a delicate line

    • Walk a fine line
    • A delicate balance

    That rang a chord for me

    • That rang a bell for me
    • That struck a chord for me

    Down-heartened

    • Disheartened
    • Down-hearted

    Their stock price went through the toilet

    • Their stock price went through the roof
    • Their stock price was in the toilet

    One shoe fits all

    • One size fits all
    • If the shoe fits, wear it

    The guiding light at the end of the tunnel

    • The guiding light
    • The light at the end of the tunnel

    A kettle of worms

    • A kettle of fish
    • A can of worms

    Read between the gaps

    • Read between the lines
    • Fill in the gaps

    Shall we speak

    • Shall we say
    • So to speak

    Thumb all of them in the nose

    • Thumb your nose at all of them
    • Punch them all in the nose

    A rare double Helenism: he's a wild cannon, a loose card

    A wild cannon

    • A wild card
    • A loose cannon
    A loose card
    • A loose cannon
    • A wild card

    Out of target

    • Out of bounds
    • Off target

    Pancake Tuesday

    • Pancake Day
    • Shrove Tuesday

    Come to fruit

    • Come to fruition
    • Bear fruit

    Breathing over his shoulder

    • Breathing down his neck
    • Looking over his shoulder

    Taking second fiddle

    • Taking second place
    • Playing second fiddle

    Has his head up his elbow

    • Has his head up his ass
    • Doesn't know his ass from his elbow

    Your high and mighty horse

    • High and mighty
    • Get off your high horse

    Took the wind out of his balloon

    • Took the wind out of his sails
    • Took the air out of his balloon

    Let's not reinvent a dead horse

    • Let's not reinvent the wheel
    • Let's not flog a dead horse

    Sticking our necks out in other people's business

    • Sticking our necks out
    • Sticking our noses in other people's business

    That's life in the big lane

    • That's life in the big city
    • That's life in the fast lane

    They consider themselves a cut apart.

    • They consider themselves a cut above.
    • They consider themselves worlds apart.

    He's hard handed

    • He's hard headed
    • He's heavy handed

    Two camps of thought

    • Two camps
    • Two schools of thought

    Put your best face forward

    • Put your best face on
    • Put your best foot forward

    It's like pulling an arm and a leg

    • It's like pulling teeth
    • Costs an arm and a leg

    Grabs your face

    • Grabs your attention
    • In your face

    stake in the sand

    • stake in the ground
    • line in the sand

    without a question

    • without a doubt
    • without question

    let his voice be known

  • let his voice be heard
  • let his feelings be known
  • looking behind everyone's back

    • looking over our shoulders
    • going behind everyone's back

    Chill down

    • Chill out
    • Calm down

    Dirt simple

    • Dirt cheap
    • Dead simple

    That's something that I haven't quite got a finger on

    • That's something that I haven't quite got a handle on
    • That's something that I haven't quite put my finger on

    Get our ducks together

    • Get our acts together
    • Get our ducks in a row

    As thin as a feather

    • As thin as a rail
    • As light as a feather

    Pandora is out of the box

    • The cat is out of the bag
    • Open Pandora's box

    A pain in the thorn

    • A pain in the neck
    • A thorn in my side

    Have a lot of spare time up your sleeves

    • Have a lot of spare time on your hands
    • Hiding something up your sleeves

    Get my ass together

    • Get my ass in gear
    • Get my act together

    An oddball out

    • Odd man out
    • Oddball

    He was flying off the hip

    • He was flying by the seat of his pants
    • It was off the top of his head
    • He was shooting from the hip
    (Note the rare Triple Helenism!)

    Turn the other eye

    • Turn a blind eye
    • Turn the other cheek

    Getting his act in order

    • Getting his act together
    • Getting his house in order

    This is where dreams are made of.

    • This is where dreams are made.
    • This is what dreams are made of.

    You can't change on a dime

    • You can't change overnight
    • You can't turn on a dime

    He put his name in the ring

    • He put his name in the hat
    • He threw his has in the ring

    We're going to show the new guy the hoops.

    • We're going to show the new guy the ropes.
    • We're going to make the new guy jump through hoops.

    That's just small peanuts.

    • That's just small fry.
    • That's just peanuts.

    We've got to jump through hurdles

    • We've got to jump through hoops
    • We've got to jump hurdles

    We're dead dog tired.

    • We're dead tired.
    • We're dog tired.

    We don't have a prayer in hell.

    • We don't have a prayer.
    • We don't have a chance in hell.

    He's not the sharpest tack in the shed.

    • He's not the sharpest tool in the shed.
    • Sharp as a tack.

    You've hit the nail right between the eyes.

    • You've hit the nail on the head.
    • Hit me right between the eyes.

    A bird in the hand saves nine.

    • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
    • A stitch in time saves nine.

    Cool your horses

    • Cool your jets
    • Hold your horses

    Easy go lucky

    • Easy going
    • Happy go lucky

    Were you born in a field?

    • Where you born in a barn?
    • Are you out in left field?

    A one-note wonder

    • A one-hit wonder
    • Johnny One Note

    Pick up the flag and run with it

    • Pick up the ball and run with it
    • Capture the flag

    I want to get your juices thinking

    • I want to get your juices flowing
    • I want to get you thinking

    Cramp my pitch

    • Cramp my style
    • Queer the pitch

    Hit the goldmine

    • Hit the jackpot
    • It's a goldmine

    Sh*t or cut bait

    • Sh*t or get off the pot
    • Fish or cut bait

    a boost in the arm for

    • a boost for
    • a shot in the arm for

    Let's put a stake on the table.

  • Let's put a stake in the ground.
  • Let's put our cards on the table.
  • They don't give you the second time of day.

  • They don't give you a second chance.
  • They don't give you the time of day.
  • We don't want to be up in the weeds

    • We don't want to be up in the clouds
    • We don't want to be down in the weeds

    It's time to kick heads!

    • It's time to kick ass!
    • It's time to knock heads!

    This doesn't have to be rock accurate.

    • This doesn't have to be rock solid.
    • This doesn't have to be perfectly accurate.

    That's still up in flux.

    • That's still up in the air.
    • That's still in flux.

    Out of the roof

    • Out of control
    • Through the roof

    Under his sleeve

    • Under his hat
    • Up his sleeve

    Check a look

    • Check it out
    • Take a look

    I'm knocking my head against a brick wall.

    • I'm knocking my head against the wall.
    • I've run up against a brick wall.

    She comes through when the chips are on the line.

    • She comes through when the chips are down.
    • She comes through when the game is on the line.

    We'll wipe your arses!

    • We'll wipe the floor with you!
    • We'll whip your arses!

    You've put me under the spot here.

    • You've put me under the gun here.
    • You've put me on the spot here.

    ... swim against the grain

    • ... swim against the tide
    • ... go against the grain

    ... on the edge of my tenterhooks

    • ... on the edge of my seat
    • ... on tenterhooks

    We have our ear to the pulse ...

    • We have our ear to the ground ...
    • We have our fingers on the pulse ...

    Cut him a break

    • Cut him some slack
    • Give him a break

    I've got an X on my back

    • I've got a target on my back
    • X marks the spot

    The flip side of the sword

    • The flip side
    • A double-edged sword

    That's work well spent

    • That's work well done
    • That's time well spent

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