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Word Maven: Common Name Idioms

A Jack of all trades

Whether you’re a Johnny-come-lately, a Jack of all trades, or a Tom, Dick and Harry, you’ve likely encountered idioms like these. On this edition of Talk of Iowa, host Charity Nebbe talks with word maven Patricia O’Conner about the colloquial phrases that have immortalized common names.

Some phrases, such as "great Scott," date back to real people or historical figures. Many of these naming idioms are much older than we might think, with some dating back to the 1600s or before. 

"Colloquialisms do show up in speech before writing," O'Conner says. 

O'Conner also weighs in on our use (and misuse) of the English language and answers listener questions.