Have you ever thought about the numerous ways American English has adopted expressions that contain references to agriculture? In just a few minutes, I jotted down more than 50 expressions that have roots in agricultural or natural resources-related fields. Here are few of my favorites.
• Don’t put all your eggs in one basket — refers to keeping your options open or not expending all your resources on one course of action.
• Don’t cry over spilled milk — you cannot change something that has already happened.
• Bread and butter — refers to the way someone makes a living.
• Make hay while the sun shines — act while the time is right.
• Dime a dozen — originally referred to an overabundance of eggs at a market, which caused the prices to be cheap.
• Late bloomers — refers to a person whose talents became apparent later in life.
• Apple of someone’s eye — the special sweetheart in your life.
• Apple polisher — originally referred to students trying to gain favor with their teacher by presenting them with an apple.
• The apple didn’t fall too far from the tree — Implies the children of a person are very similar to the parent.
• Apples and oranges — references two things that are fundamentally different and should not be compared.
• Bet the farm — Risking all your resources on the hope of solving a problem.
• Farm it out — to put a job into the hands of another.
• Seed money — money used to get a project started.
• Goes to seed — something that has become less attractive or inefficient.
• Reap what you sow — you must eventually face consequences for your actions.
• Sow your wild oats — a time of irresponsible behavior while young.
• Die on the vine — an idea or project that fails to continue on.
• Nip it in the bud — stopping an idea or project before it develops.
• I am stumped — Originally referred to pioneer wagons that were stuck on stumps along the westbound trail. It now means to not know or understand.
• Stumping — town squares often had old tree stumps, which political candidates would stand on while giving their “stump” speech in order to be seen above the crowd.
• Plant a seed of doubt — to cause someone to worry or be concerned.
• Cream of the crop — the best of the best, because cream is the best part of milk.
• The cream rises to the top — implies the best of something will become obvious.
• Meat and potatoes — an expression describing something as basic or simple.
And my favorite …
Don’t let them get your goat — You might think this means to steal a goat, however, this phrase refers to making someone very angry. No one is really sure how this expression evolved.