17 Phrases that are truly American

Jul 1, 2013 at 7:00 a.m. ET

Do you ever wonder where popular phrases like "break a leg" or "jump the gun" came from? Here are 17 other phrases that originated in the U.S. and are still used today.

Apple pie and American flag


Ladies, if you can bake a good pie, then you know it's no easy feat. However, this phrase refers to the easiness of eating pie. Not creating one.


Though you may not find a smiling clam, this phrase is associated with clams being protected from predators during high tide. It is used to describe someone who is very joyful (think landing a new job or finding fabulous shoe deals).


Sometimes career or relationship plans go awry, and you have to dust yourself off and try again. This phrase has been used since World War II, with acceptance that a design has failed and a new one is needed.


This expression is used when someone makes the wrong assumption. It originated from hunting dogs that barked at the wrong tree to indicate where they thought their prey was hiding.


Trying to get the last word for an argument that has already been resolved is considered beating a dead horse. This phrase may have derived from horse racing where horses were sometimes beaten to move faster.


For a fashionista, having to choose between a bad hair day or wearing a tacky outfit describes being caught between a rock and a hard place. Its origin can be traced back to the U.S. Bankers' Panic of 1907.


This is used when someone is really close to a successful outcome but falls short. This phrase may have come from American fairgrounds of the mid-20thcentury, where cigars were prizes.


While we don't know the actual cost for an arm and a leg, chances are, it would not be cheap. This phrase describes something that is very expensive.

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