Quiz about OldTime Expressions You Might Know Mostly US
Quiz about OldTime Expressions You Might Know Mostly US

Old-Time Expressions You Might Know, Mostly US Quiz


Here are some old-fashioned expressions you might have heard or read or learned somewhere. They're mostly from the US, but there was so much mixing that they may be familiar in England too.

A multiple-choice quiz by littlepup. Estimated time: 2 mins.
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Author
littlepup
Time
2 mins
Type
Multiple Choice
Quiz #
384,683
Updated
Sep 23 22
# Qns
10
Difficulty
Very Easy
Avg Score
9 / 10
Plays
1038
Awards
Top 35% Quiz
Last 3 plays: Guest 24 (9/10), Guest 75 (8/10), Guest 24 (10/10).
1. If you have "a hard row to hoe," what does it mean? Hint

you have it easy
you have a difficult time
things should go smoothly now
the way is easy

2. That man is one of the big bugs around here. What is he? Hint

an insignificant insect
an unpopular person
a little person
an important person

3. What does it mean to say "he's a goner"? Hint

he's not home right now
he left town
he is past recovery
he's on a trip

4. If I'm headed somewhere across lots, how am I going? Hint

rambling the longest way
taking a shortcut
blindly following directions
avoiding trespassing

5. If someone was in a fix, what condition were they in? Hint

in trouble, a bad way
in a carriage or small buggy
fixed up, repaired
in a shed or barn

6. If I talk about my "dog goned neighbor," what might you guess? Hint

I was proud of him
I was frustrated with him
I was thankful for him
I was grateful to him

7. If it's been a coon's age since something happened, what has it been? Hint

just since yesterday
a long time
a short time
a few hours

8. If I reported that a speaker went off half cocked, what would I mean? Hint

he was aggressive
he was unprepared
he was well prepared
he was hilarious

9. If I say, "He gave me a bogus fifty dollar bill," what do I mean by bogus? Hint

much needed
old and torn
brand new
counterfeit

10. "He has a lot of gumption. I think he'll do well." What am I saying? Hint

he has friends and connections
he has money and donors
he has good luck and a positive attitude
he has enthusiasm and drive


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Quiz Answer Key and Fun Facts
1. If you have "a hard row to hoe," what does it mean?

Answer: you have a difficult time

Amid some sermons published in 1852 was the explanation:"This expression is in reference to the hoeing of sugar or corn. Sometimes one row is harder than another, and one poor fellow lags behind the rest because he has got a harder row to hoe." "Bartlett's Dictionary of Americanisms," 1859, explained: "To have a long (or hard) row to hoe, is a common figurative expression, meaning that one has a long or difficult task to perform.

The allusion is to hoeing corn or potatoes." Whatever one was hoeing, the metaphor was clear.

A person with a hard row to hoe was the same as a person with a hard, stony, weedy, deep-rooted, or otherwise difficult row to hoe in a garden or field.
2. That man is one of the big bugs around here. What is he?

Answer: an important person

I can't remember where I first learned this, but it's just so perfect I've begun using it in everyday life. William and Ellen Craft, in "Running a Thousand Miles for Freedom," writing about their escape from slavery in 1860, said "big bug" was "a gentleman of distinction." The 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" defines big bugs as "people of consequence," and gives an unusual female example: "Miss Samson Savage is one of the big bugs -- that is, she's got more money than a'most anybody else in town." It also mentions "big dog" as an alternate phrase meaning "the principal man of a place or in an undertaking," and it could also be "the big dog with a brass collar" because little dogs didn't warrant collars.
3. What does it mean to say "he's a goner"?

Answer: he is past recovery

"I cum mighty nigh loosin' my life, that time that I lost my axe; I thought then, sure enuf that I was a goner," a lumberman said in the book "Now-a-Days," by Laura Curtis Bullard, 1854. "He's a goner," according to the 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" is the same as saying that "he is lost, is past recovery, is utterly demolished." A gone coon or a gone goose were other variations.
4. If I'm headed somewhere across lots, how am I going?

Answer: taking a shortcut

Going across lots meant going straight there, across fields and woodlots if necessary, rather than by following the road. According to the 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms," it means "by short cuts, in the quickest manner." Brigham Young said in an 1857 speech, "I swore... that I would send [my enemies] to hell across lots if they meddled with me." Henry David Thoreau used it ironically in his essay "Walking," 1862, implying he was taking the more contemplative way by not using the busy roads: "Some do not walk at all; others walk in the highways; a few walk across lots. Roads are made for horses and men of business. I do not travel in them much..."
5. If someone was in a fix, what condition were they in?

Answer: in trouble, a bad way

Bartlett's 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" said that a fix was "A condition; predicament; dilemma" and gave the example, "Some feller jest come and tuck my bundle and the jug of spirits, and left me in this here fix." It was apparently not just American, as John Ogilvie's dictionary of scientific, vulgar, and other English words was published in the British Isles in 1855, and it included "To be in a fix. To be in a difficulty or dilemmma [vulgar]."
6. If I talk about my "dog goned neighbor," what might you guess?

Answer: I was frustrated with him

Dog gone was a euphemism for swearing. Notes in Mayne Reid's "The Quadroon," 1856, explained, "'Dog gone,' and 'darn,' are in Western [Louisiana] phraseology common expressions. They are supposed to be a delicate substitute for the more English 'damn.'" Bartlett's 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" illustrated it spelled several ways with different examples, but with a consistent meaning: "Dog Gauned. An anagrammatic form of swearing. Southern. 'If there's a dog-goned abolitionist aboard this boat, I should like to see him...' -- Gladstone. Englishman in Kansas, p. 46. 'No, says I, I won't do no sich dog on thing...' -- Southern Sketches, p. 33."
7. If it's been a coon's age since something happened, what has it been?

Answer: a long time

The Online Etymology Dictionary says "Coon's age is 1843, American English, probably an alteration of British a crow's age." Bartlett's 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" says it meant "A long time; as, 'I have not been there in a coon's age.'"
8. If I reported that a speaker went off half cocked, what would I mean?

Answer: he was unprepared

The Online Etymology Dictionary says, "To go off half-cocked in the figurative sense 'speak or act too hastily' (1833) is in allusion to firearms going off prematurely; half-cocked in a literal sense 'with the cock lifted to the first catch, at which position the trigger does not act' is recorded by 1750." Bartlett's 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" reports: "'To go off at half cock' is a metaphorical expression borrowed from the language of sportsmen, and is applied to a person who attempts a thing in a hurry without due preparation, and consequently fails. 'Mr. Clayton of Georgia is a fine speaker; he is always ready, and never goes off half cock.' -- Crockett, Tour down East."
9. If I say, "He gave me a bogus fifty dollar bill," what do I mean by bogus?

Answer: counterfeit

Bartlett's 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" defines it as "Counterfeit, false," and gives the following report of its origin:"The Boston Courier of June 12, 1857, in reporting a case before the Superior Court in that city, gives the following as the origin of this word: 'The word bogus is a corruption of the name of one Borghese, a very corrupt individual, who, twenty years ago or more, did a tremendous business in the way of supplying the great West, and portions of the South-west, with counterfeit bills and bills on fictitious banks.

The Western people fell into the habit of shortening the name of Borghese to that of Bogus; and his bills, as well as all others of like character, were universally styled by them "bogus currency." By an easy and not very unnatural transition, the word is now applied to other fraudulent papers, such as sham mortgages, bills of sale, conveyances, etc.'" The Online Etymology Dictionary dates it to 1838, meaning "'counterfeit money, spurious coin,' American English, apparently from a slang word applied (according to some sources first in Ohio in 1827) to a counterfeiter's apparatus."
10. "He has a lot of gumption. I think he'll do well." What am I saying?

Answer: he has enthusiasm and drive

The Online Etymology Dictionary says gumption is from "1719, originally Scottish, 'common sense, shrewdness, acuteness of practical understanding, also 'drive, initiative,'... Sense of "initiative" is first recorded 1812." Bartlett's 1859 "Dictionary of Americanisms" quotes the American humorist "Sam Slick" saying, "He's a clever man, and aint wantin' in gumption."
Source: Author littlepup

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