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Updated: Mar 04, 2013 07:23 AM EST

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms (Photo : npr.org)

Author Christine Ammer releases the latest version of a dictionary of idioms that contains 10,000 of the most commonly used idioms.

Everyone has used idioms while talking. Author Christine Ammer has collected more than 10,000 of the most commonly used idioms to compile the latest version of a dictionary of idioms titled "The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms". The book was released this week.

Ammer says she added new entries to the already existing book of idioms, depending on how frequently they are used in speech and in print. While some of the new entries are modern idioms like "elephant in the room", "couch potato" and "comfort food", some of them are also old idioms that date back to the Elizabethan era of William Shakespeare.

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Ammer explains some of these idioms and their origin and explains why it's difficult to choose her favorite from among them. "The American Dream" is one of the most common idioms used, especially when people talk about immigration. However, not many people are aware of what "the American Dream" actually means. Explaining the origin of the idiom, Ammer says it originated in "Democracy in America" by Alexis de Tocqueville, which was published in 1835, but the term may be even of earlier origin. And it's the notion that living in the United States would enable prosperity. Ammer says idioms are like her children and it's difficult to pick a favorite among them. However, she does like "bad hair day" and "control freak".

There are also some idioms that have a political origin. "'To go the whole hog,' meaning to do the whole thing, first appeared in a letter from Daniel Webster. At the time he was a Massachusetts senator, and he was saying that Andrew Jackson will either go along with the party or he'll go the whole hog - he will do it all," says the author. "'To keep the ball rolling' came from William Henry Harrison's [presidential] campaign in 1840, where a huge decorated ball was rolled out in his political parades. And again, that's used very generally."

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