Queries About Colorful Expressions

Shapiro, Fred fred.shapiro at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 16 21:53:10 UTC 2013

For my column in the Yale Alumni Magazine, I am writing about "the opera ain't over till the fat lady sings" and related sayings, and also about Bonnie Taylor-Blake's recent discoveries about "the whole nine yards."  It occurs to me that these are both examples of a simple and obvious idea ("it's not over until it's definitively finished" or "the full extent of something") that becomes much more memorable by being rephrased in colorful language.

Can anyone suggest a name for this colorful rephrasing phenomenon?  Is it particularly characteristic of the Southern United States?  Can anyone suggest other examples besides "fat lady sings" and "whole nine yards"?
I hope to write the column in the next few days, so quick responses would be most welcome.

Fred Shapiro

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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