Talking Turkey, Cutting the Mustard, and 25 Other Food Phrases

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1. Apple-pie order
> Meaning: Neat or orderly arrangement

There are various explanations for this phrase, which was first recorded in 1780, that refer to the meticulousness of New England or Midwestern housewives when they baked. The most prevalent theories, though, suggest that “apple pie” in this case might be a corruption of a French phrase — either cap-à-pie, “head to foot,” or nappes-pliées, “folded napkins.”

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2. Bad egg
> Meaning: Bad or disappointing person

Used in Britain since at least the mid-19th century, the term is apparently just a reference to the unpleasant odor of a spoiled egg.

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3. Bring home the bacon
> Meaning: Earn money (especially for one’s family), be a success

The association of bacon with success dates from medieval England. It was a custom in some rural towns, most famously the Essex village of Dunmow, to award a flitch (slab) of bacon to any married couple who could swear that for the period of a year and a day they hadn’t quarreled or regretted getting married. “Bring home the bacon” in the modern sense was apparently first used by English humorist P.G. Wodehouse in 1924.

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4. Butter wouldn’t melt in his [her] mouth
> Meaning: This person is very cool or coy, or possibly devious while seeming innocent

The expression is often credited to 16th century English playwright and poet John Heywood, who first recorded it as a proverb in 1536. However, priest and royal tutor John Palsgrave used it in a textbook six years earlier, writing “He maketh as thoughe butter wolde nat melte in his mouthe.”

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5. Cut the mustard
> Meaning: Live up to expectations, do what’s needed

The origins of this phrase are unclear, but it was first used in print by American short story writer O. Henry in 1907. It probably refers to cutting or harvesting mustard plants, not to slicing through a thick yellow paste.

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