The way words get incorporated into our culture changes over time. Phrases get co-opted to mean something very different than their original intentions. Without thinking, we use gun metaphors in our everyday conversation. It shows just how entangled guns and language have been throughout history. Where did the slang come from, who said it and how was it first used? 

• Bite the bullet


It’s 1891. You’re a wounded soldier about to have surgery without any anesthetic. The medic says this when they give you a bullet to clench your teeth.


Our first car is on its last legs. You’re not ready to say goodbye to it but know it’s something that needs to happen. If someone says this to you today, it means you likely have to accept an unpleasant truth. And that’s that something will cost money you didn’t want to spend. 

• Fizzle

In the Middle Ages

It meant you had the power to step into any room and have people immediately get out of your path. However, this was due to you passing something ‘silent but deadly.’ That’s right. A Song of Ice and Fire…and farts. 

In the Industrial Ages

Gunpowder was poured down the barrel of rifles, secured with a piece of cloth and then ignited by a spark struck from the flint. If misfired, you had a “fizzle.” 

In this day and age

You’re the CEO of a Start-Up whose investors and prospects are dwindling. 

• Hotshot

If you were a pirate

You know you’re tossing a cannonball into a furnace. Waiting until it’s nice and burn-y and then firing it at your enemy. #BoatParty #LIT. 

If you are a politician, lobbyist, lawyer or journalist

You use it to describe a reckless person. Someone who is overeager and overcompensating for what they’re packing. Definitely them and not you, though… 

• Offhand remark

To Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary

Tied to the Lewis and Clark expedition, riflemen practiced their aim “50 yards offhand.” — firing a rifle while standing, without using the steadying support of a rest. 

To your boss’s Secretary 

A not-so-friendly and out-of-place comment. Seemingly made without preparation, premeditation or reason. 

• Potshot


You shot and got something to put in your cooking pot, despite style or sportsmanship. 


You attacked your opponent in a debate to make your point, with unfair criticism and destructive intentions. 

• Snapshot

The Past

Haha. You missed me! Shouldn’t have hurried your shot without aiming. Too bad, so sad. 

The Present

You want to know more about me but, like, not EVERYTHING. I’ll give you the critical info but leave out anything useless. 

• Blow your Wad

In Battle

You forgot to load your shot before firing the gun. Hopefully, you get a do-over. 

In Bed

You finished your job prematurely. Hopefully, you get a do-over. 

• And finally, this list you’re reading. Bullet points!!! 

So synonymous with soul-sucking PowerPoint presentations that we forget what their shape represents. Likely, why sitting through them sometimes feels like it might kill you.

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