The — often dubious — origins of popular phrases.
Numerous sayings listed in the popular "Life in the 1500s" |
Hat makers became crazy from the fumes produced by mercury-soaked felt, hence the phrase 'mad as a hatter.'
Death benefits paid to beneficiaries of soldiers who died in battle were often enough to pay off the mortgages on family farms, hence the deceased was said to have 'bought the farm.'
The origin of our saying "Bless you!" when someone sneezes stems from an ancient desire to safeguard the sneezer's soul or to commend the dying to the mercy of God.
Disputed parentage of a child born aboard a ship was resolved by listing the newborn as a "son of a gun."
The exclamation "Holy smoke" derived from the burning of the ballots used to elect a Pope.
The phrase "Kilroy Was Here" began as a ship inspector's mark in World
Someone who cheats at cards is properly styled a card shark, not a card sharp.
"One for the road" and "On the wagon" date to offers of a last drink for a condemned prisoner.
Barkeepers kept track of patrons' tabs via chalking p's and q's on the wall (for pints and quarts), hence the admonishment to "mind your p's and q's."
To "let the cat out of the bag" comes from cats being sold as pigs or sailors being whipped for transgressions.
"Little History Lesson"
The phrase "salad days" was coined by William Shakespeare.
"Another kick at the cat" began with someone who had it in for housecats.
"The whole nine yards" began as a reference to the contents a cement truck.
"Always a bridesmaid but never a bride" originated with an advertising campaign for mouthwash.
"Let me put in my two cents" gained its linguistic origin thanks to the game of poker.
Quitting "cold turkey" results in the skins of addicts in withdrawal resembling that of plucked turkeys, hence the origin of the term.