Origin Of Expressions

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The Origin of Everyday Expressions


In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. That's where the phrase, "Goodnight, sleep tight" came from.

The sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." uses every letter in the alphabet. (developed by Western Union to test telex/twx communications)

The only 15-letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is "uncopyrightable."

The only 12-letter word that is typed with your left hand only is "stewardesses."

When opossums are playing 'possum, they are not "playing." They actually pass out from sheer terror.

The term "the whole nine yards" came from WWII fighter pilots in the Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got "the whole nine yards."

The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.

The name "Jeep" came from the abbreviation used in the army for the "General Purpose" vehicle: G.P.

It was the accepted practice in Babylon 4,000 years ago that for a month after the wedding, the bride's father would supply his son-in-law with all the mead he could drink. Mead is a honey beer and, because their calendar was lunar based, this period was called the "honey month" or what we know today as the "honeymoon".

The Good Old Days

In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So, in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down. It's where we get the phrase "mind your P's and Q's."

Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. "Wet your whistle," is the phrase inspired by this practice. 

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide their body odor. Baths were nothing more than a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then came all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying 'Don't throw the baby out with the bath water'. 

Houses had thatched roofs made with thick straw piled high with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets.. . dogs, cats and other small animals, mice, rats, bugs lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying 'It's raining cats and dogs'. 

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt, hence the saying 'dirt poor'. 

The wealthy had slate floors which would get slippery in the winter when wet. So they spread thresh on the floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on they kept adding more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would get even more slippery. A piece of wood was placed at the entry way, hence a 'thresh hold'. 

Sometimes they could obtain pork and would feel really special when that happened. When company came over, they would bring out some bacon and hang it to show it off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could really 'bring home the bacon'. They would cut off a little to share with guests and sit around to 'chew the fat'. 

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the 'upper crust'. 

Lead toby's, or mugs, were used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination, possibly a form of lead poisoning, would sometimes knock them out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around, eat and drink, and wait to see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a 'wake'. Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into the rim or handle of their ceramic cups. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service. 'Wet your whistle' is the phrase inspired by this practice. 

England is old and small, and they started running out of places to bury people. They would dig up coffins, take their bones to a house, and re-use the grave. In reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on their wrist, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground, and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell. Hence they were on the 'graveyard shift', and would know that someone was 'saved by the bell', or he was a 'dead ringer'. 

Fun Facts

The first toilet ever seen on television was on "Leave it To Beaver". 

It takes 3,000 cows to supply the NFL with enough leather for a year's supply of footballs. 

Thirty-five percent of the people who use personal ads for dating are already married. 

The world's termites outweigh the world's humans 10 to 1. 

On average, 100 people choke to death on ball-point pens every year . . . so BE CAREFUL!! 


Copyright 2010 Tim Stouse
Last modified: December 10, 2010
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