"American as apple pie
- clichéd quintessential American. Although
the original pie is much different than what we know today, the modern
pie is an American creation. Apples (and pies) were brought to America
from Europe, and were both popular in Europe, but Americans popularized
the apple pie as America became the world's largest apple producer.
"Apple pie order
" - tidy and well-organized. It is assumed the phrase
originates from the French 'nappes pliees', meaning neatly folded, or
from 'cap-a-pie order'. It first appears in Pasley's Private Sea
Journals (1780): "Their persons clean and in apple-pie order on
"The Big Apple"
- nickname for New York City. The nickname of "The Big
Apple" for New York City was first popularized in New York Morning
Telegraph articles by John J. Fitzgerald in the 1920s, referring to
horse racing. The earliest reference was on May 3, 1921: "J.P. Smith,
with Tippity Witchet and others of the L.T. Bauer string, is scheduled
to start for "the big apple" to-morrow..." He frequently referred to
"the big apple" thereafter, and finally explained the reference in 1924:
"The Big Apple. The dream of every lad that ever threw a leg over a
thoroughbred and the goal of all horsemen. There's only one Big Apple.
That's New York." By the late 1920s, other writers were starting to
refer to New York as The Big Apple out of the horse racing context. By
the 1960s, The Big Apple was only known as an old nickname for the City,
but in the 1970s, the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau began
promoting "The Big Apple" as the City's moniker. It caught on.
"Easy as pie"
- something easy. This specific phrase stems back to 19th
century America, but references to pie as denoting pleasantry or ease
date back decades earlier. Mark Twain frequently used "pie" to describe
something pleasant or accommodating, such as in The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn (1884): "You're always as polite as pie to them." The
earliest example of the exact phrase "easy as pie" is from The Newport
Mercury, a Rhode Island newspaper in June 1887 in a comic story set in
"Eat humble pie"
- act submissively and apologetically, especially when
admitting an error. In the 14th century England, "numbles" was the name
for the heart, liver, and entrails of deer. By the 15th century, it had
shortened to "umbles". The umbles were common ingredients for pie
fillings - thus, umble pie. The evolution to the idiomatic "humble pie"
is assumed to be the result of the similar-sounding words, as well as
the fact that those eating umble pie were most often of humble means.
"Have your finger in the pie"
- to have a role in something, be
"Have your finger in too many pies"
- to be involved in too many things
to be able to do them well.
"Have your finger in every pie"
- to be involved in everything, usually
in a way others disapprove of.
These idioms originate from the nursery rhyme of Little Jack Horner,
which is believed by many to be a true (if figurative) story of the
steward to Richard Whiting, the last abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, before
the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII. Legend has it that,
just prior to the abbey's destruction, the abbot sent Little Jack Horner
to London with a Christmas pie which had the deeds to a dozen manors
secretly baked inside. During the journey, Horner opened the pie and
extracted the deeds of the manor of Mells in Somerset. The manor
properties included lead mines in the Mendip Hills, hence "He pulled out
a plum" - from the Latin plumbum, for lead:
Little Jack Horner sat in the corner,
Eating a Christmas pie,
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum,
And said "What a good boy am I!"
"Nice as pie"
- someone pleasant and friendly, especially when they
weren't expected to be. The etymology of "nice as pie" is the same as
"easy as pie".
"Pie in the sky"
- a promise of heavenly reward while continuing to
suffer in this life. This American phrase was coined by Joe Hill, a
leader in the radical labor organization The Industrial Workers of the
World (known as the Wobblies) in 1911. Joe wrote many radical songs
supporting their cause. The phrase appeared in the chorus of Hill's The
Preacher and the Slave, a parody of the Salvation Army hymn In the
Sweet Bye and Bye. The song criticized the Army's theology and
philosophy, particularly its focus on saving souls rather than feeding
the hungry. "You will eat, bye and bye; in that glorious land above the
sky; work and pray, live on hay; you'll get the pie in the sky when you
- drunk. References date back to 1904, but the etymology is
unclear. Many guess that the term "pie" was slang among printers to
mean blurry mess, and so "pie-eyed" refers to the blurred vision of a
- originated in the nursery rhyme "Simple Simon", in which
Simple Simon meets a pieman on the way to the fair.
"Shut your pie hole"
- be quiet, stop talking. This modern slang
expression is of UK origin, dating from the mid-20th century. Airman
slang for a mouth was "cake hole". It was widely-used in the UK until
the 1970's, and has faded out of popular use. The equivalent term "shut
your pie hole" began use in America in the 1980s. It isn't clear if it
derives form "cake hole" or was coined independently.
"A slice of the pie"
- a portion of the money (or other bounty) shared
- many believe this expression stems from the superior, unburnt top of the bread. A minority school of thought is that peasants
prepared pies with only a bottom crust, as only the wealthy had ample
resources for both a bottom AND a top crust.