Out on a limb



Look what’s back! Blowing off the cobwebs on this old favorite in honor of an especially bizarre interview by a loyalty-challenged (and possibly paranoid) famous celebrity. I know you’ll see the theme, but can you guess the celebrity?





Thrown under the bus – Oddly enough, this is a recent (and overused already) phrase that has stumped most phrase historians despite its relative youth.

Indeed, there’s a vague reference to Cyndi Lauper and a more practical usage in minor league baseball (“be on time to get on the bus or  be under it”) and bus lines in general (the undercarriage is where they stored bags), neither of those has the betrayal factor that flavors the current use.

The closest I was able to dig up was from a London reference in 1982 (those Brits are the source of so many of our colloquialisms), which was politically related.

Of course, now, everyone uses this expression to mean letting someone else publicly take the blame for someone/others, so it’s well past cliché all the way to annoying!


Hung out to dry – Again, another of those “I don’t know who said it first”, but we can feel confident of its metaphorical origin: clothes lines!

One can readily imagine the idea of leaving someone who is (metaphorically) soaked in guilt (real or contrived) and left to “hang out and dry” at the mercy of any and all onlookers, essentially taking the blame while others equally (or totally) responsible escape notice.


With friends like these, who needs enemies – Gosh, this is a mystery origin installment!

This is another puzzler. Though it’s most commonly thought to be an English proverb (told you about them Brits!), the first usage in the meaning of “friends whose actions are more like enemies” is unclear.

Some point to Winston Churchill, but so many people like to use Winston Churchill as the answer for just about any quote (and he did have many pithy quotes) that it’s difficult to take that on faith.



Ah, the sweet smell of learning. What’s that? None of the phrases had any origins? Well, okay, so I messed up one stinkin’ time. No need to throw me to the wolves!

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)