I was at a training session yesterday in a room full of people who were mostly born in the U.S. and who grew up with English as their first language.

The session speaker used the phrase "soup to nuts" and someone raised their hand and said "Can you define soup to nuts?"

We subsequently determined that only about 20% of the people in the room were familiar with the phrase, which surprised me because I had learned it forever ago and figured most people had a similar exposure. And I came home later and found out that my husband hadn't heard the phrase, either.

I didn't know the origin of the term, but someone in the room had learned it in his Latin class; the ancient Romans had soup as a first course at dinner and ate dried fruit and nuts for dessert. (So, essentially it means A to Z, which is a more common phrasing.)

Yesterday was full of lessons for me about how very difficult it can be to accurately communicate, even with people who are native speakers of the same language you speak and write. (I also got crossways with radlab0 on Facebook, but I think we sorted it out.)

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