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    The World Wars

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    Do you Know

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    Biographies for the B(ibl)iophile

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    Harry Potter

“Close, but no cigar”

Definition: Being near success, but just missing out.

Origin: Once upon a time, fairground stalls favored gifting cigars to winners rather than overstuffed, over-sized plush toys. Needless to say, winning was nearly impossible at the rigged carnival games and thus the idiom war born. The first evidence of the saying comes from a film script for Annie Oakley in 1935, after which it was frequently used in newspaper articles.

“Bust your balls”

Definition: A slang term which can refer to a form of punishment, working hard, or being harassed or teased.

Origin: Believe it or not, the term actually comes from literally busting the balls of a calf. Rather than cutting them off or chemically sterilizing them, a method was developed to literally break a calf’s testicles to turn them from a bull to a steer. Thankfully, only the figurative version is used by humans.


“Bark up the wrong tree”

Definition: To make the wrong choice or pursue the wrong course.

Origin: When hunting raccoons for fur was a popular sport, hunting dogs were used to sniff them out of trees. Being a nocturnal animal, the hunting party had to work at night, and the dogs would sometimes end up choosing the wrong tree, or as the idiom goes, ‘bark up the wrong tree”. The term was first printed in a book by Davy Crockett in 1833.

“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride”

Definition: Literally, always being a bridesmaid and never a bride. More figuratively, it is a forlorn saying for women when they can’t find love.


Origin: This gem of an idiom was first recorded in a Victorian music hall tune, “Why Am I Always A Bridesmaid?”, by Fred W. Leigh. However, the phrase garnered popularity after a retrospectively hilarious ad for Listerine mouthwash in 1924. The slogan, “Often a bridesmaid, but never a bride”, accompanied a picture of a forlorn ‘Edna’, who, because of her halitosis (bad breath), was never being able to find love. The solution: buying Listerine mouthwash in bulk.