In a nutshell

Where does the expression “in a nutshell” come from?

“Pliny tells us that Cicero asserts that the whole Iliad was written on a piece of parchment which might be put into a nutshell” - Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1898

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153 Responses to In a nutshell

  1. thematrix75 says:

    Hello Marina,how are you doing?Love the Gorby Necklace,and the killer red dress :!: Your smokin’ hot :!: I love you in the nutshell,some crafty special effects :!: I love you with all my heart , my favorite teacher in the whole world.Hope you enjoy the rest of your week,and have a great 2010.Easter and Saint Patricks’ Day coming up very soon hope you enjoy them if you celebrate both of these.See you later, Peace from, thematrix75 :cool: :smile: :!:

  2. thoughtonfire says:

    Dear HotForWords,

    This is my life in a nutshell:

    Your Student,

  3. pedanticKarl says:

    Reference the end of the video, licking the turtle.

    Quote from HotForWords book, page 123
    “… and don’t go putting your tongue
    on something that’s too hot, either.”

  4. rexino13 says:

    After my friend from Philly saw you on myspace shesent me a joke in a nutshell. I don’t know if it’s politically correct or not. LOL.

    Ya know guys, over 5,000 years ago Moses said to the children of Israel “pick up your shovels, mount your asses and camels, and I will lead you to the Promised Land”

    Nearly 75 years ago, Roosevelt said “lay down your shovels, sit on your asses and light up your camels, this is the Promised Land”

    Now Obama has stolen your shovels, taxed your asses, raised the price of camels and mortgaged the Promised Land
    I was so depressed last night thinking about Health Care Plans, the economy, the wars, the Health Summit, lost jobs, savings, Social Security, and retirement funds, etc . . . I called Lifeline and got a freakin’ call center in Pakistan .. I told them I was suicidal and they got all excited and asked if I could drive a truck?

    • leoNard says:

      [honey] with peanuts [roasted] …[Funny]…rexino13
      ; good joke and the soul is sewn, sown like a stone seeded and burries the berry for new knews of old growth…[extemp ora neo us] :grin: must scatter my so[u]r ceress….best promise kept is choosen knotted toad the circle…Beas R. Goode or nicked name“[HONEY]“ :smile:

  5. leoNard says:

    ~ [P A I N]……….—> blockquote> :oops:

    [index are american sc(r)hools: :oops: :code for districts(de-educating) zipping


    are sports hEAlthY? :lol: how much too! die/die too! much beas-fly :!:

    • beevee14 says:

      Two hillbillies walk into a restaurant. While having a bite to eat, they talk about their moonshine operation.

      Suddenly, a woman at a nearby table, who is eating a sandwich, begins to cough. After a minute or so, it becomes apparent that she is in real distress. One of the hillbillies looks at her and says,”Kin ya swallar?”

      The woman shakes her head no.

      Then he asks, “Kin ya breathe?”

      The woman begins to turn blue and shakes her head no.

      The hillbilly walks over to the woman, lifts up her dress, yanks down her drawers and quickly gives her right butt cheek a lick with his tongue.

      The woman is so shocked that she has a violent spasm and the obstruction flies out of her mouth.

      As she begins to breathe again, the Hillbilly walks slowly back to his table.

      His partner says, “Ya know, I’d heerd of that there ‘Hind Lick Maneuver’ but I ain’t niver seed nobody do it!” :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  6. Prospero says:

    Oh – also:


    Hey – give one of your first fans a present and do those words. Please! I think I first ran across your site when you only had 10 or 20 words out there – maybe in your first month or two. I knew instantly back then that you’d be a success.

  7. Prospero says:

    Oops – I am requesting the word [filibuster]. We hear a lot about filibusters these days with the health care reform in Congress.

    • beevee14 says:

      Good one, Prospero. Can we also do “reconciliation”, “nuclear option” and that oldie but goodie, “Fucking-the-people-who-pay-your-salary” otherwise known as “obamacare”!
      As if I didn’t feel bad enough because I don’t have a J-O-B, ol’ Harry has got me beating the Old Lady, too! Thanx, Harry Reid, you putz!!

  8. Prospero says:

    Given the current American political climate – have you done the word “filibuster” yet? If not, I request it!

  9. rosiecheeks says:

    This bitch hasn’t run out of words yet? Geezus christ.

  10. mrbbishop says:

    [Megalomania], Am I afflicted with it, or do I just want to make things better.

  11. Chris says:

    I would like to learn the origin of the word [sadomasochism].

    • leoNard says:

      To whom it may concern!…Just to let you know, that the edit device is working like crap, it moves erratically! :oops: :arrow: accidental, any which way, bits-and-pieces, blind, capricious, careless, casual, chance, desultory, directionless, drifting, erratic, fanciful, fickle, fits and starts, flighty, fortuitous, frivolous, goalless, haphazard, heedless, hit-or-miss, indecisive, indiscriminate, irresolute, objectless, pointless, purposeless, random, shiftless, stray, thoughtless, unavailing, undirected, unguided, unplanned, unpredictable, vagrant, wandering, wanton, wayward …SORRY for my slop :|

  12. tonyb says:

    That is one side of your personality I had not seen-before; getting silly with that shell.

  13. gunju221 says:

    ;-) :| :x :twisted: :smile: :shock: :sad: :razz: :roll: :oops: :o :mrgreen: :idea: :grin: :evil: :cry: :cool: :arrow: :???: :?: :!:

  14. Greatest Potential says:

    in a nutshell is a way to summarize things

    • leoNard says:

      Idiomatic usage
      The expression “in a nutshell” (of a story, proof, etc.) means “in essence”, metaphorically alluding to the fact that the essence of the nut, i.e., its edible part, is contained inside its shell.

      The expression further gave rise to the journalism term [nut graph], short for [nutshell paragraph]… :lol: The flowers of the coconut palm are polygamomonoecious, with both male and female flowers in the same inflorescence. :lol: not a botanical nut :lol: The meat of the coconut is the edible endosperm, located on the inner surface of the shell. Inside the endosperm layer, coconuts contain an edible clear liquid that is sweet, salty, or both.

  15. AllynTygrrr says:

    In a nutshell I have an overactive imagination…and then some.

    Does the turtle have a name?

  16. gristle says:

    I would like to request the phrase [Far Cry], as in Bill Nye is a far cry from Marina!

    My son was asking about where this came from, and what it meant. I didn’t have a good explanation and he said “We should ask Hot for Words!”

  17. tonyb says:

    Turtle, turtle. that is so cute. when I try to communicate things about incidents in my life I come up with the idea of using “the short version” of it. something more concise and to the point- or ” in a nutshell” so to speak.

  18. leoNard says:

    [FLAPPERS]…Marina would had probably … :cool: :lol: Thoroughly Modern Millie” is a 1967 musical comedy film directed by George Roy Hill.
    It’s starring Julie Andrews, James Fox, Mary Tyler Moore, John Gavin, Carol Channing, Beatrice Lillie,
    …in a nut shell, nothing is soul much CHANGE :lol: Flappers had their own slang, with terms like “snugglepup” (a man who frequents petting parties) and “barney-mugging” (sex). Their dialect reflected their promiscuity and drinking habits; “I have to go see a man about a dog”888 often meant going to buy whiskey, and a “handcuff” or “manacle” was an engagement or wedding ring. Also reflective of their preoccupations, they had many ways to express approval, such as “That’s so Jake” or “That’s the bee’s knees,” or a more popular one, “the cat’s pajamas.”

    Many terms still in use in modern American English slang originated as flapper slang, such as “big cheese,” meaning an important person; “to bump off,” meaning to murder; and “baloney,” meaning nonsense. Other terms have become definitive of the Prohibition era, such as “speakeasy,” meaning a place to purchase illegal alcohol and “hooch,” which means ***liquor.
    …. :roll: ….Beautiful Flapper – 1920′s Fashion Movie
    4 MARINA and her [GANG]… :smile:

    • AllynTygrrr says:

      How funny that you mention this.

      I randomly stumbled across that word (flapper) after foolishly watching an episode of ‘Bad Girls Club’ on the Oxygen channel when the Daily Show and Colbert report were dark last week.

      Why? My dad was born in 1916, so back in his day they referred to certain types as ‘flappers’ (although he proudly claimed ‘he was a sinner’…so I digress), and after watching that episode of the Bad Girls Club I was simply adding my commentary via Facebook while still attempting to remain comically politically polite.

      I actually thought of posting the link to the Wikipedia page here for Marina because I thought she might find that entire 1920′s American lexicon interesting…but I was afraid she might take it the wrong way. :/

      Crazy small world that you happen to mention it here.

      The cat’s pyjamas baby.


      • leoNard says:

        The world seems to get smaller…I thought the same and changed how I was using the slang word “flapper”, too. :twisted:

        Now that’s sheer exhibitionism, Liz: Hurley wears a VERY revealing sari

        The times are only changing what masters the economic developments; and fashion works the [rhetoric].{“saying the same thing twice.” }

        Public relations, lobbying, law, marketing, professional and technical writing, and advertising are modern professions that employ rhetorical practitioners. …peace out friend :smile:

        • AllynTygrrr says:

          And comedy.

          Small world indeed.

          The funny thing is, if I weren’t distracted by the depth of my own rhetoric I would be applying far more of the brain/time towards business invention/creation instead. Irony. The satirical media-based world conquest narrative is just a hobby gone amusingly wild. But I find it exceptionally entertaining and do have a few ‘parallel’ show ideas in the wake.

          If I can train myself to remotely Marina’s level of self-production and internet-publication capability I think I might do all right.



          The funny, funny part? Whenever someone asks, I’ve historically often cited Liz Hurley as what I consider a ‘dreamgirl’ type because not only is she tall and beautiful, but also classy and intelligent – so I’ll let her slide on the ‘exhibitionist’ VERY revealing sari.

          Take care!


          - A -

  19. leroym88 says:

    Where did the word [buku] come from? I heard a friend say they won buku money at the casino the other day.

  20. handziol_86 says:

    Gorby’s troffy :shock:

  21. handziol_86 says:

    hehehe awsome shellsd ! And Gorby nekles! Is that Gorby for real ? :twisted:

  22. branmichlin says:

    How did [Alphabet] get that name? Is it derived from the Greek Alphabet like.. Alpha, Beta?

  23. bigredgumball says:

    I WANNA BE A TURTLE! :razz: lol This was a pretty cute video. I have a ship in a very tiny bottle.

  24. gramage says:

    I would like to request the expression [Gun Show] as I have many friends who use this expression to brag about their biceps, but none of us know the origin of the term and cannot find it either.

    Thank you :)

  25. leoNard says:

    If I dropped my co-ableing~cane, would someone pick it up. We are a11 soul small, we could fit in a nut. [mustard] S. FReud was a mom liked-inbred! :-) A persons egg is hatched…a gate is open!!!!!!!

  26. Che Mero says:

    [Pubic/puberty] Is there a connection? :???:

  27. Evan Owen says:

    Just talked with one of our suppliers in Mississippi;


    Y’all have a good day now, y’heah? :grin:

    • CampKohler - Sacramento CA says:

      Many years ago, we visited my father’s family on the farm in E. Texas. When my mother went to the grocery story, she started to leave and the clerk said, “Y’all come back, now.” And so she went back to the clerk to see what she wanted. :grin: True story.

  28. daporras says:

    What is the correct term when referring to someone/something from Argentina: Argentinean or Argentine?

  29. bsomebody says:

    Abe Lincoln said that anybody could give a two hour speech. Someone was really good, though, if he or she could get the point across in under 15 minutes.


    Somebody needs to pay more attention to Abe.

  30. mickeyt67 says:

    I’m curious about the Idiom [ cop out ] where did it come from?

  31. Bob says:

    So you dusted off one of your old “videos-for-twelve-year-olds”.
    Short and sweet (as a nut) but still prefer the brunette; so much classier.
    Homework: I AM a nut and my skull is the shell. :grin:
    I once went to the National Museum in Taipei, Taiwan, and there was an exhibit of [bas-relief] landscapes carved onto the surface of grains of rice, which could only be seen with the aid of a powerful magnifying glass. Incredible!

  32. doncross2bear says:

    I have many things in miniature. A large collection of miniature furniture that my late Mother and I amassed together some years back, and way too many miniature die cast vintage race cars, to name just a couple. Finely detailed miniatures fascinate me.
    Jeez, Teacher, what’s with the self-deprecation here? On Twitter, you referred to yourself as a dork, and in the video, as a nerd. I know dorks and nerds, and you, milady, are neither. You are a geek, perhaps; nay, Queen of Geeks! And Queen of our hearts.
    Love to Teacher,

    • CampKohler - Sacramento CA says:

      Have you ever looked at your miniatures under a 3D microscope (usually less than 40 power)? Every little thing on the surfaces stand out like a boulder. If a miniature was perfect when viewed like that, I would be mightily impressed.

      • doncross2bear says:

        I looked at my 1/1 scale Miata under similar magnification after a polishing session once and nearly cried out loud….

        • CampKohler - Sacramento CA says:

          But it’s the stereoscopic effect that really makes things (bad ones, anyway) leap out at you. Stereo ‘scopes cost about $75-150 at electronic swap meets ten years ago, but they are amazing to use, especially if you are looking for a splinter in your finger.

          • doncross2bear says:

            Oh, I see now. Sounds like an interesting device to have. I’ve been intrigued by microscopes since I was a kid. I enjoy getting an up close view at things minute. And given the fact that I hate to work with gloves on, Lord knows I’m hip to splinter searching. Thanks for the tip, friend.

      • rosiecheeks says:

        and u haven’t run out of words to ask yet. geezus christ.

  33. pandion says:

    Would the smallest doll of a matreshka count as a miniature?

  34. dnmoyer says:

    I would line to request the phrase [goodie two shoes]
    Thank you,

  35. pedanticKarl says:

    In a nutshell, I want to thank logischabbaubar for pointing out that the German magazine Spiegel Online covered 12 YouTube videos today with Marina’s being one of them.

    “Good linguistic instruction is dependent
    on the quality of teacher”

    I posted the information on the Forum here.

  36. seesixcm6 says:

    Dear Marina,
    Thank you for another video, so soon after your Nexus video. You look great in that low-cut red dress. Your voice is smooth and flowing, with good diction, and you’re lovely to listen to. :razz:
    The term, “in a nutshell” actually refers to the concise version of a story or a summary of it. For instance, Homer’s “Oddessy” is the story of a long voyage at sea, Or the movie, “Casino Royale” is, in a nutshell, the story of a criminal who tries to obtain lots of money in a crooked card game, and James Bond must prevent this. :smile:
    In general, it doesn’t mean to own a miniature version of something. As a kid, I would glue together plastic model airplanes in 1/72nd and 1/48th scales. I would paint and decorate them to look realistic, but my parents would give them away to kids or adults who liked the models. :shock:
    It taught me some lessons: That they were just things, and I shouldn’t invest so much value to them. Besides, they made other persons happy to have them, so that’s good. (I think). :?:

  37. davec says:

    Hi Marina,

    I have often heard [ dead as a doornail ]. What’s with that? What’s a doornail?

    • CampKohler - Sacramento CA says:

      There have been several such requests lately, so I wonder what is provoking it. I don’t know why the nail in a door would be any more dead than any other kind of nail.

  38. hotrocky says:

    Marina, you are SOOOO funny!

    I have a number of miniature Minis, little models of Mini Coopers. I only have one that’s a model of the new ones from BMW, but dozens of the real Minis, from Morris and Austin, even a 1/10th scale Radio Controlled exact model of my 1967 Morris Cooper S, with a model of me driving it.

  39. Hi Marina – may be off topic for the video but wanted to offer a WORD SUGGESTION – I keep hearing the word [Twizzle] during the Olympic skating events – any relation to the candy Twizzlers or vice versa?

  40. augie says:

    how bout the bathtub test lol– During a visit to the mental asylum, a visitor asked the Director how do you determine whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

    “Well,” said the Director, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

    “Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

    “No.” said the Director, “A normal person would pull the plug. Do you want a bed near the window?”


  41. the phoenix says:

    Hello Marina, I would like to know where the phrase “Tongue in Cheek” came from? :smile:

  42. thebaron says:

    Hi, Marina! I’d like to ask, what did we call [tea], before we had tea? That is, our word “tea” comes from the Chinese “chai”. But what did we call drinks made from steeped herbs, before we got tea from China?
    Best regards,
    the Baron

  43. davidd says:

    The History Channel showed Pirate Tech tonight…there are a lot of colorful words that come out of sailing, including some odd pronunciations…


    Just to name a few!

  44. jcr says:

    The Gorby necklace is so cute! Super video, too!

  45. augie says:

    we here in the navy request word [asslious] yes we do use this word but with different meanings thanxs augie

  46. shiljak says:

    hello Marina,

    I request word [rawr], I realy don’t know what should realy mean.


  47. beermech says:

    request how [gauge] became [gage] and which one is more correct.

    • CampKohler - Sacramento CA says:

      I don’t know that one “became” the other. Gage is an alternate spelling for the instrument (gauge), but gauge also refers to the standard sizes of things such as metal thicknesses, fastener diameters and so forth.

  48. richpin06 says:

    Marina were did the expression [count your lucky stars] come from.

    your dear student

  49. jinime says:

    I would like to request the word [Panic] ;-)

  50. Greatest Potential says:

    In a nutshell - concisely expressed

    A nutshell is small enough to be a symbol for anything brief. There is no need for further explanation, though there are curious stories of attempts to copy substantial documents, such as the entire Bible, in letters so small that the resultant document will literally fit in a nutshell. Roman literature has a reference to the writing out of the whole of Homer’s Iliad (17,000 lines) in this way.

    source: internet

  51. pat says:

    Homework: I’ve been a “shell”tered nut for a long time.

  52. scotdog says:

    I would like to where the word{Cleavage] originated from. Yours, by the way, is spectacular. :grin:

  53. ethanfourr says:

    Thanks for doing the video on the phrase I requested…I was kinda hoping though that you’d give a shoutout to me in the video but I’m not complaining! Other words I’d like to know more about the origins of are the words [Synechdoche] and [Metonymy]..I know they are figures of speech, but the origins I do not know much else…I realize that you already did a video I requested and you might want to give other people’s videos a chance but I thought I’d ask :P

  54. bcchief says:

    Thank God the blonde is back!! I was just wondering about the expression (batshit crazy) can you let me know where something like this comes from?

  55. says:

    How did a word so [fine] as fine become a fine you have to pay?

  56. traveller23 says:

    I have a miniature Schnauzer. That’s the dog, not some kind of euphamism.

  57. BigBhd95 says:

    wow :shock: my teacher “tongued”me :oops:
    :cool: B.B. :cool: you LOOK [scrumdidlyishiss] :?:

  58. smokey36bear says:

    Nothing in a nutshell here. Maybe that’s my problem.

  59. agmlll says:

    I could be bounded in a nutshell, and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams.–Hamlet

  60. James says:

    Yay! THE BLONDE IS BACK!!!! WOOOOOOOOO :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

    :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz: :razz:

    That was a quick lesson. But quick in a good way. It gave a descriptive origin.

    By the way Marina, do you have any css for me to do? I haven’t done any for you for so long, I need to start getting back to it or I may start to forget how to do it.

    In a nutshell. I would like some errors on the website please.


  61. thehausofryan says:

    Hi! I love your videos/lessons and would like to request the phrase [Break the Ice]. Thanks! ;-)

  62. cavyking12 says:

    Marina, this is the fourth time i’m requesting the word JUXTAPOSE…I’m starting to think you’re not up to the challenge! Just kidding, you’re amazing and I know you can do it! So please teach us the philology of the word JUXTAPOSE!

  63. Moose and Squirrel says:

    Hi guys. The only thing I have small enough to fit in a nutshell would be this little squirrel with his finger poking some where. lol

  64. leoNard says:

    I’m a nut…. :lol: …another big-little ROOSTER joke :P Anutter udder…4 BUTTer… :-) roach

  65. cufan71 says:

    :cool: #2

    Homework Since I’m a John Deere NUT, I also collect model John Deere tractors! :grin:

  66. pedanticKarl says:

    In a nutshell, I am First!
    Yeah!, I beat leoNerd again :-)

    What do I have that is small that fits in a nutshell?
    Nut much. Everything I have or do is big. :-)

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Not your typical philologist! Putting the LOL in PhiLOLogy :-)