Search us!

Search The Word Detective and our family of websites:

This is the easiest way to find a column on a particular word or phrase.

To search for a specific phrase, put it between quotation marks.






You do not need to be logged in to comment.

You can comment on any post without being registered on this site.

You do not need to use your real name (although it would be nice to do so) or your real email address.

All comments are, however, held for moderation, so it may take a day or two for yours to appear.

Almost all comments are approved (spam and personal abuse being the primary exceptions), but approval of a comment does not indicate agreement.



shameless pleading

No bones about it

A Chicken Runs Through It.

Dear WD: I very much appreciate your site — it will take me some time to read all your columns (but I will). But in the meantime, I need to find the origin of the phrase “no bones about it.” Any help you can offer will be very helpful.– Michael A. Rayl.

I sometimes wonder what’s really going on when people write me saying they “need” an answer. Am I missing out on some lucrative wager riding on my response? Am I determining, unwittingly, the outcome of a extravagant contest, the grand prize of which is a week on the Riviera? Is this why so many of my readers send me “thank you” cards from Hawaii? How do I get in on the action?

Oh well. Whatever the truth, I have no choice but to soldier on, so here goes. To “make no bones about it,” means to do something in a straightforward or unapologetic manner — to “just do it.” According to Christine Ammer’s book “Have A Nice Day — No Problem,” a dandy dictionary of cliches, “make no bones about it” is such an ancient phrase, dating to at least 1548, that its origins cannot be accurately traced. As is usual in such cases, however, there are theories. It may have originally arisen as a metaphor, referring to someone who did not make a fuss if bones turned up in his or her soup or stew. Or (there’s never just one theory, you’ll notice) it may be based on “bones” being a very old slang term for dice. Someone who “made no bones” would be a player who simply cast the dice when his turn came, omitting all the mystical (and annoying) little rituals (such as blowing on, or talking to, the dice) gamblers often develop to conjure up good luck in a game.

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Please support
The Word Detective

(and see each issue
much sooner)

by Subscribing.


Follow us on Twitter!