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On a ship the beams are horizontal timbers that stretch across the ship and support the decks. If you are on your beam-ends your ship is leaning at a dangerous angle. In other words you are in a precarious situation.
This comes from the days when livestock had their ears marked so their owner could be easily identified.
This old saying means to grin and bear a painful situation. It comes from the days before anesthetics. A soldier about to undergo an operation was given a bullet to bite.
A long shot is an option with only a small chance of success. In the past guns were only accurate at short range. So a 'long shot' (fired over a long distance) only had a small chance of hitting its target.
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
This old saying probably comes from a Medieval law which stated that peasants could use branches of trees for fire wood if they could reach them with their shepherds crook or their billhook.
The expression to eat humble pie was once to eat umble pie. The umbles were the intestines or less appetizing parts of an animal and servants and other lower class people ate them. So if a deer was killed the rich ate venison and those of low status ate umble pie. In time it became corrupted to eat humble pie and came to mean to debase yourself or act with humility.
KICK THE BUCKET
When slaughtering a pig you tied its back legs to a wooden beam (in French buquet). As the animal died it kicked the buquet.
KNOW THE ROPES
On a sailing ship it was essential to know the ropes.
Once knuckle meant any joint, including the knee. To knuckle under meant to kneel in submission.
LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG
This old saying is probably derived from the days when people who sold piglets in bags sometimes put a cat in the bag instead. If you let the cat out of the bag you exposed the trick.
LICK INTO SHAPE
In the Middle Ages people thought that bear cubs were born shapeless and their mother literally licked them into shape.
GO THE EXTRA MILE
By law a Roman soldier could force anybody to carry his equipment 1 mile. In Matthew 5:41 Jesus told his followers 'if somebody forces you to go 1 mile go 2 miles with him'.
MAD AS A HATTER
This phrase comes from the fact that in the 18th and 19th centuries hat makers treated hats with mercury. Inhaling mercury vapor could cause mental illness
PAY ON THE NAIL
In the Middle Ages 'nails' were flat-topped columns in markets. When a buyer and a seller agreed a deal money was placed on the nail for all to see.
Originally a shamble was a bench. Butchers used to set up benches to sell meat from. In time the street where meat was sold often became known as the Shambles. (This street name survives in many towns today). However because butchers used to throw offal into the street shambles came to mean a mess or something very untidy or disorganised
SHOW YOUR TRUE COLORS
Pirate ships would approach their intended victim showing a false flag to lure them into a false sense of security. When it was too late for the victim to escape they would show their true colors-the jolly roger!
Anchor cable was wrapped around posts called bitts. The last piece of cable was called the bitter end. If you let out the cable to the bitter end there was nothing else you could do, you had reached the end of your resources
In the Middle Ages freelances were soldiers who fought for anyone who would hire them. They were literally free lances ...
THE POWERS THAT BE
This comes from Romans 13:1 when Paul says 'the powers that be are ordained of God'.
to invest with ministerial or sacerdotal functions; confer holy orders upon.
to enact or establish by law, edict, etc.:
to ordain a new type of government.
to decree; give orders for:
He ordained that the restrictions were to be lifted.
(of God, fate, etc.) to destine or predestine:
Fate had ordained the meeting.
Several hundred years ago, early American settlers used the word “neck” to describe a narrow stretch of wood, pasture, meadows, and so on.
The use of “neck” to describe a narrow piece of land was of course an extension of the anatomical term “neck”—that narrow stretch located between the head and the shoulders.
The original word dates back to the 800s (it was first recorded in Old English as hneccan), and comes from old Germanic sources.
The usage was first recorded in colonial property deeds.
The Oxford English Dictionary’s earliest citation is from a document written in Dedham. Mass., in 1637: “Graunted to Samuell Morse yt necke of medowe lying next unto ye medowes graunted unto Edward Alleyn. ...
You got: You are a wise soul!!
You are a wise soul!!You were able to successfully complete every single wise old saying in this quiz! This means you are wise and experienced!!Some may even say that having this specific age of emotion allows you maintain a zen-like nature, complete with calm and tranquility. You've made mistakes and learned from them, and one of life's greatest lessons has taught you to take everything with a grain of salt. You have a talent for passing along your developed thought process, making an impact on everyone around you who become enamored with your well-thought out ideas and opinions!
but according to Phrases.org.uk the term originated in the gaming community: If card players keep their hands above the table (board) they can be seen to be playing fairly.
English is a funny language. 🤣
Sweeping from butchers’ stalls, dung, guts, and blood; Drown’d puppies, stinking sprats, all drench’d in mud, Dead cats, and turnip-tops, come tumbling down the flood.
You got: You are a wise soul!! You are a wise soul!!You were able to successfully complete every single wise old saying in this quiz! This means you are wise and experienced!!Some may even say that having this specific age of emotion allows you maintain a zen-like nature, complete with calm and tranquility. You've made mistakes and learned from them, and one of life's greatest lessons has taught you to take everything with a grain of salt. You have a talent for passing along your developed thought process, making an impact on everyone around you who become enamored with your well-thought out ideas and opinions!
originally posted by: Kandinsky
a reply to: blend57
I like the 'shambles' one and the other about the 'bitter end.' They both get my mind firing.
Imagine a market back before hygiene was even a concept? There'd be flies all over the place and the butchers wouldn't have a clue about mixing cuts or washing hands. Man, the wouldn't even have best befores! Some guy crawling with e.coli would just have a sniff of the meat and his customers would be playing Russian roulette with their health. Now you're saying they'd be throwing offal away and I can almost sense it. Rodents, domestic dogs and cats, feral ones and all the flies and stink a person could handle.
As the myth goes, "rule of thumb" relates to a British law, allowing a husband to beat his wife with a stick, as long as it isn't wider than the man's thumb.