Posts tagged ‘origins of expressions’

May 2, 2014

may 2nd

This widely used term “clean bill of health,” has its origins in the document issued to a ship showing that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic or infection at the time of departure.


September 8, 2013


 The word “checkmate” in chess comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat,” which is often translated to “the king is dead”, although more accurate may be “the king is trapped” or ” the king is without escape”.


August 19, 2013


LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG : Refers to a con game practiced at country fairs in old England. A trickster tried to sell a cat in a burlap bag to an unwary bumpkin, saying it was a pig. If the victim figured out the trick and insisted on seeing the animal, the cat had to be let out of the bag.


July 15, 2013

Close But No Cigar!


Years ago, cigars were often given as prizes at fairs and carnivals. When a player almost won, the person running the game would say, “Close but no cigar.”


July 9, 2013

Say What?


Give Someone the Wind is an old saying that means to jilt a suitor with great suddenness.

June 3, 2013

Backseat Driver


Cars of the early 1900s only had one seat, but it was able to hold two or three  people. When back seats were eventually added, they were too far back to  effectively have a conversation with the driver. All of that changed with the  introduction of the 1912 Essex coach, which featured a box-like enclosed body  that made it easier to talk. Passengers started taking advantage of the  opportunity to talk to the driver from the back seat, including how to drive thus the saying began.


May 13, 2013

What The Dickens?


“Hurts like the dickens” has  nothing to do with Charles Dickens, but rose in popularity in Victorian times with the notoriety of the famous author.  Dickens is a euphemism, for the word devil.  It first appeared in Shakespeare’s “Merry Wives of Windsor” Act 3, scene 2: “I can not tell what the dickens his name is.”


April 21, 2013

Say What?


STEALING SOMEONE’S THUNDER: A literary critic and third rate playwright named John Dennis, wrote a play called “Appius and Virginia”.  The story goes that Dennis invented a new machine, which produced the sound of thunder for his play. Unfortunately, for the dramatist, his play was a flop. A few weeks later, Dennis went to see a production of “Macbeth” and was astonished to find that the sound of thunder needed in the play was being produced by the machine that he himself had invented. Dennis was apparently so angry that he shouted, “Damn them!…They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder!”