I first took notice of abused idioms many years ago as I read a beer coaster at Busch Gardens. The coaster claimed that the term “lock, stock and barrel” originated from the ancient beer industry. Something about owning the keys to the business, the legal ownership documents and the beer barrels.
Having grown up shooting muzzle-loaded rifles, I knew the coaster contained complete rubbish.
When you start to disassemble a muzzle loader, you first usually pull out one wedge pin and you lift away the gun barrel. What you have left is a big piece of wood and a mechanical firing mechanism. That mechanism contains the trigger, the hammer, the spring and all the interlocking metal pieces. It is called the lock. Remove a screw or two and you can pull that out of the wood piece. What remains is a big piece of carved wood that is called the stock. So, the gun consists of the lock, stock and barrel. “Did you sell everything?” “Lock, stock and barrel!”
I was inspired to write this piece when I heard one of the multi-millionaire talking heads that bring us our news, say “… try a new tact.” Tact is a sense of decorum. Try a new sense of decorum? The proper word is “tack.” It’s a nautical term. When one changes course by turning through the direction from which the wind is blowing, it is called a tack. So, a new tack is a new course, or a new approach. So, one says: “This approach isn’t working, let’s try a new tack.”
“Let’s flush out the details.” Was that right?
Yes, if the details were hiding somewhere.
Game is flushed out of hiding. So, if there are some hidden people or information “flushing out” may be the proper term.
However, I often hear people use “flush” when they want to ad information or details to a plan. That is where we use “flesh.” It comes from the concept of adding flesh to the bones of a creature. “Fleshing out” adds meat to the bones, and it adds details to a plan. So, please flesh out the plan.
I better quit while I’m ahead, otherwise I might burn my bridges before they are hatched.