Do you ever use a popular expression and you wonder where it comes from? Learn the strange and sometimes crazy origin of 13 popular expressions. You will surely impress your friends and family with this knowledge.
1. Bite the bullet
Doctors would tell patients to bite down on a bullet when they were short on anesthesia. Thankfully, this does not happen anymore.
2. Break the ice
Boats were the mode of transportation of choice before roads were constructed so when the big boats would get stuck in the ice, smaller boats would come and break the ice to free them. This created an affiliation/friendship between the two territories.
3. Butter someone up
In ancient India, a devout would throw butter balls at statues of their gods to seek forgiveness and favours. This was a customary religious act.
4. Mad as a hatter
Lewis Caroll did not invent the term Mad Hatter. It actually comes from the 17th century when hat makers would use mercury for the felt in their hats. Those who wore those hats would become shy, irritable, and made them seem mad.
5. Cat got your tongue
The English Navy would flog people with a whip called “Cat-o’-nine tails” and the pain would be so intense that the victims would stay quiet for many days afterwards.
6. Barking up the wrong tree
Hunting dogs would chase their prey up a tree but sometimes the dog would continue barking and not realize the prey was no longer there.
7. Turn a blind eye
Admiral Horatio Nelson, a British Naval hero, had one blind eye. When he was about to attack Danish ships, the British forces signalled him to stop but he held up a telescope to his blind eye and attacked the Danish ships anyway since he said he did not see the signal.
8. Caught red-handed
Someone who butchered an animal that wasn’t their own would be punished. How would they know they butchered this animal? The animal’s blood would still be on their hands.
9. Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water
People would only bathe once a year in the early 1500s. They wouldn’t even change the water from person to person so the babies would be the last to enjoy the bath but the water was clouded with everyone’s filth so mothers had to make sure they didn’t throw out their babies with the bathwater.
10. Give a cold shoulder
When hosts in England during the Middle Ages would want their guests to leave, they would give them the shoulder of mutton, pork or beef chop. This was a polite way to tell their guests to leave.
11. Go the whole nine yards
Fighter pilots were equipped with nine yards of ammunition during WWII so when they ran out, they had to do their best to fight off the enemy without their ammunition.
12. Let one’s hair down
Women during the medieval times had to have elegant hair-dos when they were seen in public. However, when they were home, they could relax and let their hair down.
13. Rub the wrong way
During colonial times, Americans would ask their servants to rub their floorboards the right way since if they didn’t, it would cause streaks and ruin the floors, which would annoy the homeowner. This expression is also used when one rubs a cat’s fur in the wrong way.