All in One Basket: 8 Eggcentric Expressions
A delicious omelet might move some to extravagant displays of excitement, but the verb sense of egg meaning "to incite or urge; encourage" has no relation to the eggs we eat for breakfast. It comes from the Old Norse term eggja with a similar verbal meaning. However, if you drop the on in this expression, saying instead "to egg someone," the henhouse connection is reestablished. In this construction, the verb egg means "to pelt with eggs."
This term entered English with the sense of "a bald person." But it gained notoriety in the presidential campaign of 1952 when it was used in reference to democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson—along with his followers—with a pejorative sense of "an intellectual." Stevenson offered the following cheeky Latinism in response to criticisms that intellectualism cost him the campaign: Via ovum cranium difficilis est, roughly translated as "the way of the egghead is hard."
This expression means to fare wretchedly, especially to be unsuccessful 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 curious expression emerged in the 1700s with the meaning of "to presume to teach someone something that he or she knows already." Although it’s fun to speculate that the saying provides insight into an epoch of grandmotherly egg sucking, the expression was most likely conceived as a comical way to drive the message home that elders know more than their juniors imagine. Be careful not to confuse these grandmas with egg-suckers; in the singular, this term means "a flatterer; a sycophant."
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 obscure. One theory is that it evolved out of teenage slang, and that it referenced a messy manner of eating that might leave food around one's mouth.
This expression may sound like an ill-conceived circus act, but the saying "to walk on eggs" means to walk or act very cautiously, especially so as not to offend or upset anybody. The expression first appeared in the 1740s as "trod upon Eggs." By the mid-1800s, people were walking on eggshells in addition to eggs, but egg-trampling was both more gooey and more common. Around 1990 this changed, and the expressions "walking on eggshells" and "walk on eggshells" both skyrocketed in use, while "walking on eggs" and "walk on eggs" waned in popularity.
Putting all of your eggs in the refrigerator or the frying pan is one thing; putting all of them in one basket is another thing entirely. 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. English speakers have been using this turn of phrase, if not heeding its wisdom, since the mid-1600s. Of course, at Easter, children far and wide shun this sage advice in favor of a more carefree approach to egg gathering.
The phrase nest egg has been around since the late 1500s. When it entered English, it meant "an egg placed in a nest to induce a hen to continue laying eggs," although it was often used in figurative contexts to refer to an object used as a decoy or an inducement. Nowadays, it is widely used to mean "money saved and held in reserve for emergencies, retirement, etc."
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