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until the cows come home

 Until the cows come home

Image shows cows crossing a country road.

Cows, presumably in the process of coming home.

Moving on to slightly older and more interesting clichés, the phrase “until the cows come home” is used to signify a very long period of time, particularly in the context of carrying out a futile task. An example of its use is:

“You can argue your case until the cows come home, but you still won’t convince me.”

While the origin of this expression isn’t known for certain, it’s thought to allude to the fact that a herd of cows returns home in the morning to be milked. An alternative reading suggests that the expression is Scottish in origin, and refers to the fact that the cattle grazing on the highlands stay out all summer, gorging themselves on the abundant grass, until they run out of food in the autumn and return home. This is one of a number of common English expressions arising from our agricultural past; it’s probably been around for hundreds of years.

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