|Welcome to my "sayings"
I want your honest & valued comments concerning any and all aspects of this
Any new "saying" or "expressions" will be added to the page and duly
Thanks for stopping by.
Where Did Dat Come From?
|Have you ever heard a phrase such as "dead as a door
nail" or "stuff a sock in it" and wonder "where did dat come from"? I have looked all over for a
book that would explain the origin of sayings or expressions and never found
one, so I decided to start my own collection. If anyone knows of such a
book, please let me know.
Should you have knowledge of the origin of any expressions or sayings, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Any and all contributions are gratefully appreciated and will be acknowledged with your approval.
I will be adding to this page when I find new stuff, so please check back often. Use the search below, to help you find your favourite expression. Page last updated 04/14/2013
|An arm and a leg .... In George Washington's days, there were no cameras. One's image was either sculpted or painted. Some paintings of George Washington showed him standing behind a desk with one arm behind his back while others showed both legs and both arms. Prices charged by painters were not based on how many people were to be painted, but by how many limbs were to be painted. Arms and legs are "limbs," therefore painting them would cost the buyer more. Hence the expression, "Okay, but it'll cost you an arm and a leg."|
|Big wig ..... As incredible as it sounds, men and women took baths only twice a year (May and October)! Women kept their hair covered, while men shaved their heads (because of lice and bugs) and wore wigs. Wealthy men could afford good wigs made from wool. They couldn't wash the wigs, so to clean them they would carve out a loaf of bread, put the wig in the shell, and bake it for 30 minutes. The heat would make the wig big and fluffy, hence the term "big wig." Today we often use the term "here comes the Big Wig" because someone appears to be or is powerful and wealthy.|
|Bridal bouquet ... In the 1500, most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and still smelled pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to help mask the body odour.|
|Bring home the bacon & Chew the fat ... Back in the 1500’s, they would sometimes be able to obtain pork, which made them feel special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could “bring home the bacon”. They would cut off a little to share with their guests and would then sit around and “chew the fat”.|
|Brownie points ... Brownie is a house spirit in Scottish superstition. In England he is called Robin Goodfellow. His favourite abodes are farms, and at night he is said to busy himself doing little jobs for the family over which he presides. Although he was never seen, families often left offerings to show their thanks. Brownie points refers to a person who does a good deed for another and is looked upon favourably as|
|gaining "bonus points".||
Compliments of LadyHawke
Chairman or Chairman of the Board ..... In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The "head of the household" always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in the chair meant you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the "chair man." Today in business, we use the expression or title "Chairman" or "Chairman of the Board."
A - Back along time ago in the dark ages in the UK, before forensic sciences were born, one of the best ways to get rid of that "mortal" enemy, was to put a little poison in his wine and that would be that. So it became common place, when you were to receive a drink from someone you weren't to sure about, to pour some of their drink into yours so that if there was any poison in your glass you could be sure to watch and make sure they took the first drink. But as a sign of true friendship and trust instead of exchanging liquids true friends would simply touch glass and say "cheers" to state that brotherly bond and utter trust with their in the friendship. That's why today it is a sign of friendship to "cheers" over a drink, to express trust
|between close pals, family, and friends alike.||
Compliments of Bill M
|B - It was believed in olden days, that evil spirits could be chased away or kept away by load sounds. Somehow this notion was change or modified and replaced with the clinking of glasses when friends exchanged greetings at the local watering hole. And the word "Cheers" was added to extend a warm welcome to the friendship.|
|Chew the fat ... see Bring home the bacon|
|Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead ... I need some help here folks. I believe it has something to do with the US Civil war, Mobile Bay and the first submarines.|
|Dead as a door nail ... Nails were once hand-tooled and costly. When someone tore down an ageing cabin or barn he would salvage the nails so he could re-use them in later construction. When building a door, however, carpenters often drove the nail through then bent it over on the other end so it couldn't work its way out. When it came time to salvaging the door, those bent nails were considered useless or dead.|
|Compliments of LadyHawke|
|Dead ringer, Graveyard shift & Saved by the bell ... In merry old England, they started running out of room to bury people, so they started digging up coffins and would take the bones to the "bone house". When opening these coffins, they found that 1 in 25 coffins had scratch marks on the inside. Realizing that they were burying people alive, they came up with a solution. They tied a string onto the "dead" person's hand, buried them, and tied the other end of the string to a bell and then looped the string over a nearby tree branch. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (grave yard shift) to listen for the bell. If the person revived enough to ring the bell (saved by the bell and/or dead ringer), their survivors would rush|
|out and dig them up.||Compliments of LadyHawke|
|Dirt poor ... (1500's) The floor of most houses was dirt. Only the rich could afford a better floor covering.|
|Dog days of summer ... I can't remember, can anyone give me a hand with this one? I know it has something to do with the "Dog Star" and late summer.|
|Eavesdropping ... In Anglo-Saxon England, houses had wide overhanging eaves so that the rain would fall out and away from the walls thereby preventing the runoff from undermining the foundations. The spaces below the eaves where the water fell were called "eaves drips", later "eavesdrops", and the word took on the meaning it has today because some snoopy character, way back then, discovered that the spaces were a good spot to stand and overhear private conversations inside the house. Eavesdropping, in this manner, wasn't any more popular than our modern electronic versions and in one 18th century instance the punishment was made to fit the crime; he listener was "to be placed under the eaves of the house in rainy.|
|weather "till the water runs in at his shoulders and out at his heels".||Compliments of LadyHawke|
|Fair to Midland ... In medieval times, Midland was a town on the opposite side of the forest but the forest was the alive with thieves and robbers. Travelers who had to travel through the forest to get to Midland would ask the locals how the road conditions were and if the way was safe the locals would reply|
|"Fair to Midland".||Compliments of Bill M|
|Friday the 13th ... October 13, 1307, under fraudulent charges of blasphemy, heresy, to name a few, of the Knights Templar were arrested, tortured and killed by Pope Benedict XI and King Phillip the IV of France in a what should have been a surprise attack. However, the knight Templar were forewarned and several managed to escape. Additional information click here .|
|Freeze the balls of a brass monkey ... When sail and oars were the only means of powering a ship, and cannons where loaded by ramming powder, ball and wadding down the mussel, the cannon balls where stored beside each gun placement in a brass holder which the sailors referred to as a monkey. During cold weather, the lead cannon "balls" contacted at a lesser rate than the "monkey". When cold enough, the brass monkey squeezed the balls so tightly that they literally popped out of their holder.|
Fornication under consent of the king ... In ancient England, a
person could not have sex unless you had consent of the King. When anyone
wanted to have a baby, they first had to obtain consent. He
gave them a placard that they hung on their front door while they were having sex.
The placard read: ( Do I have really have to spell it out for you? )
|Frog in your throat ... Medieval physicians believed that the secretions of a frog could cure a cough if they were coated on the throat of the patient. The frog was placed in the mouth of the sufferer and remained|
|there until the physician decided that the treatment was complete.||Compliments of LadyHawke|
|Giving the cold shoulder ... In merry old England, a wandering knight would be welcomed at any castle with a delicious hot meal. The common traveler would usually get only a plate of cold meat. Mutton was|
|popular, so he often got the "cold shoulder" of mutton.||Compliments of LadyHawke|
|Good Lord willing and the Creek don't rise ... Did you know this saying may make reference to the Creek Indians and not a body of water? It was written by Benjamin Hawkins in the late 18th century. He was a politician and Indian diplomat. While in the south, Hawkins was requested by the President of the U.S. to return to Washington. In his response, he was said to write, "God willing and the Creek don't rise." Because he capitalized the word "Creek" it is deduced that he was referring to the Creek Indian tribe and not a body of water.|
Gossip ... Early politicians required feedback from the public to determine what the people considered important. Since there were no telephones, TV's or radios, the politicians sent their assistants to local taverns, pubs, and bars. They were told to "go sip some ale" and listen to people's conversations and political concerns. Many assistants were dispatched at different times. "You go sip here" and "You go sip there." The two words "go sip" were eventually combined when referring to the local opinion and, thus we have the term "gossip."
|Graveyard shift ... see Dead ringer|
|Half assed ... We've all heard the phrase that something was done "half-assed", but few people stop to wonder what such a ridiculous expression could possibly mean. The term "half-ass" evolved from "half-adz." An adz is an axe like tool with a curved blade used for shaping wood. If you were wealthy and paid top-dollar for a new fireplace, the mantle would be shaped using an adz in the front as well as the back side, which wasn't visible. However, if you weren't wealthy and wanted to save money, you could have only the|
|front visible portion of the mantle shaped, this cheaper job being "half-adz".||Compliments of LadyHawke|
|Honey moon ... 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 "honeymoon".|
|John Doe ... Nobody knows if there was a person called John Doe, but the name has been used in legal documents in England since the 14th century. The law required that two witnesses be produced in every legal case. When prosecutor's couldn't find two, or wanted to protect the names of the actual witnesses, the practice of using the fictitious names of John Doe and Richard Roe began. Later, the names were used when the actual name of one of the parties in a suit wasn't known. Generally, John was the plaintiff and Richard|
|was the defendant.||
Compliments of LadyHawke
|Mind your P's and Q's ... 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".|
|Mind your own beeswax ... This came from the days when smallpox was a regular disfigurement. Fine ladies would fill in the pocks with beeswax. However, when the weather was very warm the wax might melt. But it was not the thing to do for one lady to tell another that her makeup needed attention. Hence, the|
|sharp rebuke to "mind your own beeswax!".||
Compliments of LadyHawke
|Not enough room to swing a cat ... It's an old naval term, believed to be that you had to make sure you had enough room or space to allow you to swing the whip which is also known as the Cat of Nine Tails.|
Playing with a full deck ... Common entertainment in days of yore included playing cards. However, there was a tax levied when purchasing playing cards but only applicable to the "Ace of Spades." To avoid paying the tax, people would purchase 51 cards instead. Yet, since most games require 52 cards, these people were thought to be stupid or dumb because they weren't "playing with a full deck."
|Put up your dukes ... Two possible explanations.|
|A - When there was a land dispute in merry
England, the land owners, who were Lords, would call upon the opposing land
owner to settle the dispute in a gentlemanly manner. When that ploy
failed, one of the Lords' would call upon the other to fight it out.
They would accomplish this by calling out the other Lords' Duke.
B - Many years ago, when pugilism was a bare knuckled sport, a Duke took interest in the sport and even became a combatant. He was so good with his fists people in the boxing world, that folks started referring to their fists as Dukes in tribute.
|Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in a pot, nine days old ... (1500's) They cooked in a kitchen with a big kettle or pot that always hung in the fire place, every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving the leftovers in the pot to get cold over night and when they started over the next day. Sometimes the stew had food in it that had been there for some time which led to the nursery rhyme.|
|Raining cats and dogs ... (1500's) Houses had thatched roofs – thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the dogs and cats and other creatures lived in the roof. When it rained the straw became very slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall from the roof. Hence the expression.|
|Ring around the rosy ... This nursery rhyme is a rhyme about the plague. Infected people with the plague would get red circular sores "Ring around the rosy", these sores would smell very bad, so common folk would put flowers on their bodies somewhere (inconspicuously) so that they would cover the smell of the sores "a pocket full of posies". People who died from the plague would be burned so as to reduce the possible spread of the disease "ashes, ashes, we all fall down!".|
|Rule of thumb ... The phrase is derived from an old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb.|
|SNAFU ... Military short form from the WW11 meaning "Situation Normal, All F**ked Up"|
|Saved by the bell ... see Dead ringer|
|Sleep tight ... 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. Hence the phrase, "goodnight and sleep tight".|
|Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue ... (16th century) The bride wore a blue dress. Blue was colour back then for virginity. It was also customary to for guests to rip pieces off the brides wedding dress. Today, a blue garter is thrown for the guys to catch and flowers for the gals.|
|Son of a gun ... Your assistance please??? It has to do with naval warships and officers wives giving birth on the gun deck, I believe.|
|Straight laced ... Ladies wore corsets, which would lace up in the front. A proper and dignified woman, as in 'straight laced' wore a tightly tied lace.|
|Stuff a sock in it ... When the gramophone first appeared on the market, it lacked a volume control. To adjust the volume, the user would stuff something in the horn to muffle the sound like a piece of cloth or a sock. Today, we usually use this expression when requesting someone to quiet down.|
|Take it with a grain of salt ... Salt is now an inexpensive and readily available commodity. But it was once very valuable due to its high demand as a food preservative and relative scarcity. Salt was thought to have healing properties and to be an antidote to poisons. To take (eat or drink) something "with a grain of salt" was to practice preventive medicine. One would do this if they were suspicious that the food might be|
|poisonous or may cause illness.||
Compliments of LadyHawke
The "Bird" (giving / flipping the ... ) ... before the Battle
of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English,
proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers.
Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned
English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the
future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree,
and the act of drawing the longbow was known as 'plucking the yew' (or
Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, See, we can still pluck yew! Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute! Because of the pheasant feathers used on the longbow arrows the symbolic gesture is also known as 'giving the bird.'
Compliments of Rheva
|The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog ... This sentence, uses every letter in the alphabet. It was developed by Western Union to test telex/twx communications.|
|Trench mouth ... (1500’s) Most folks didn’t have pewter plates but they had trenchers. A trencher was a piece of wood with centre scooped out. Often trenchers were made from paysan bread, which was so old and hard it could be used for a long time. Trenchers were never washed and a lot of times mould and worms got into the wood or old bread. After eating off wormy, moldy trenchers, one could get trench mouth.|
|Threshold ... (1500’s) The floor of most houses was dirt. Only the rich could afford something other than dirt. The wealthy had slate floors that could 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 start falling outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance way to hold the thresh inside.|
|Throw the baby out with the bath water ... (1500’s) Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of nice clean water, then all the sons and other men, then the woman and finally the children, last where the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the expression: (Don’t) throw the baby out with the bath water.|
|Tying the knot ... (16th - 17th century) The bride and groom where had their right arms tied together by a|
|ribbon in a bow.||
Compliments of Rheva
|Under the weather ... A old nautical term that originated possibly in the British navy. When a sailor was ill,|
|he was kept below decks, and thus, under the weather.||
Compliments of LadyHawke
|Upper crust ... (1500’s) Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle and guests got the upper crust.|
|Wake ... (1500’s) Lead cups where used to drink ale or whiskey. The combination would sometimes knock them out for a day or two. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They would be laid out on the kitchen table and the family gather around and eat and drink|
|and wait to see if they would wake up; hence the custom of holding .... a wake.||
Compliments of Larry B
|WD40 ... The WD stands for Water Displacement and the 40 represents the fourth formula the inventors tried got it right. For some of the uses alternate uses for WD40 refer http://www.twbc.org/wd40.htm Alternate uses for WD40 are not endorsed, encouraged or supported by WebLightes or the web master.|
|Wet your whistle ... 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.|
|What the shoe maker used to kill his wife ... You sometimes hear a carpenter say this, as he is about to|
|use the final nail. After all, what did the shoe maker use to kill his wife? His last.||Compliments of Bill M|
|the Whole nine yards ... The term comes from WW II fighter pilots in the Pacific. When loading 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 9 yards.|
|You scratch my back & I'll scratch yours ... (from a BBC program about antiques) This phrase came from the use of the Cat O Nine Tails, the whip used in the British Navy. The saying effectively meant that if the person went easy with the whipping on them, when the punishment was reversed, they would go easy|
Compliments of LadyHawke
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