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Old Saying Origins

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posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 05:04 AM
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Old Saying Origins

I was looking up the etymology of a word and stumbled across a website that had a list of old sayings and their origins. I thought it was interesting to learn how some of them came to mean what they do, how words/phrases changed throughout the ages. A lot of them seem to come from the bible, daily life/tasks such as knitting or baking, and sailing. For example, when you say On Your Beams Ends that used to mean:


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.

Or the word Earmarked originally meant:


This comes from the days when livestock had their ears marked so their owner could be easily identified.

There are also some listed that came from soldiers such as Bite the bullet and A Long Shot.


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.


Listed in alphabetical order on the page, I just picked out a few that we use (or used) around my neck of the woods. The website I quoted from is not that pretty, so fair warning. But it seems to have a pretty complete list of all the old sayings and where they came from.


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.

HUMBLE PIE
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.

KNUCKLE UNDER
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.

SHAMBLES
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!

BITTER END
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

FREELANCE
In the Middle Ages freelances were soldiers who fought for anyone who would hire them. They were literally free lances ...


One I find interesting is the powers that be.


THE POWERS THAT BE
This comes from Romans 13:1 when Paul says 'the powers that be are ordained of God'.


To be ordained means :


to invest with ministerial or sacerdotal functions; confer holy orders upon.
2.
to enact or establish by law, edict, etc.:
to ordain a new type of government.
3.
to decree; give orders for:
He ordained that the restrictions were to be lifted.
4.
(of God, fate, etc.) to destine or predestine:
Fate had ordained the meeting.



Oh, and not to forget the one I used in the beginning, My neck of the woods:


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. ...


Anyways, just a short thread on old phrase/word origins. There are more at the link but these are the ones I'm familiar with and found to be interesting. There are some I'd never heard used before as well.

This is a simple "quiz" that determines (supposedly) if you are an old soul by whether or not you can fill in the blanks to some old sayings.

Fill in The Blanks Quiz

I have no idea how having an old soul and taking this quiz correlate, but that's what it says, so...

This is my "quiz" result:


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!

Yep, I'm a wise soul...


Have a good Sunday and, as always, thanks for reading!

blend


edit on 25-3-2018 by blend57 because: Added quiz result




posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 05:45 AM
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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.

The 'bitter end' is also evocative as it shows how embedded in life the maritime world used to be. Royal navies and merchant navies were massively important so it isn't surprising that we have loads of old references in our languages. Again, not great lives for most with food full of weavils and maggots and rats pissing all over the place. The crews would be utterly freezing in winter and probably swooning from the stench of each other in summer.

Then again, imagine the seas from back then? There used to be ancient whales and I've read that some cod populations were that huge a fisherman could pull one fish after another up all day every day. It would have been so clean too without the plastics and pharmaceuticals we flush down there nowadays.



ETA - Whoops! I left out this link - 36 nautical idioms to get you shipshape and Bristol fashion
edit on 3.25.2018 by Kandinsky because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 05:53 AM
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a reply to: blend57

Sorry. I did not post my results.

Apparently I am an old soul.

Still an ass soul.

Lol. Sorry Blend, could not help myself ! 🤣😎



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 05:57 AM
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a reply to: Kandinsky

Having some nautical history, a great many of them are still current !

English is a funny language. 🤣



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 06:06 AM
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a reply to: Kandinsky

There is one that I thought would be nautical and isn't:

Everything is aboveboard

A commenter pointed it out and the reply was:


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.


Thanks for the link and comment!

a reply to: Timely

sigh...

Lol! No worries! We all have to be who we are...


Thanks for stopping by and adding some Timely flair to the thread.



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 06:20 AM
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a reply to: Timely



English is a funny language. 🤣


It is! Funny language for funny people lol. You reminded me of the 'raining cats and dogs' saying and I found this as a plausible explanation. The guy who wrote Gulliver's Travels once described a heavy rain and how dead cats and dogs might be seen on the ground. It's cool because it directly relates to what I was saying about stinky markets. Swift adds the dimension of dead animals to the stench and grisly sights. Bleurgh! Horrible times for horrid histories.




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.
www.worldwidewords.org...



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 06:25 AM
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a reply to: Kandinsky

Thank you for that wonderful word mosaic ... right on bed time !

Sweet dreams ..
😐



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 06:33 AM
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a reply to: Timely

Yeah sorry about that!! Think of happy thoughts.



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 06:36 AM
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A few years ago I had a presentation to do at work and I had a bet with a few colleagues about how many old sayings and song names I could get into it.. I did fairly well from memory....


A saying I use a fair bit is the "The whole nine yards" ref the bullet belts used by ww1 machine gun crews that came in 9 yard lengths, "Give that area the whole nine yards"...



RA



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 06:39 AM
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a reply to: slider1982

You make Bruce Willis proud !

😎



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 07:42 AM
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Ring around the Rosie, pocket full of Posies, ashes, ashes, all fall down.

Nursery rhyme from the Back Plague:

The ring around the Rosie was the early sign of plague. A distinctive ring formed around a red spot on the skin.

People believed Posey flower petals kept in the pocket would ward off the disease.

Plague victims bodies are burned, reduced to ashes.

All fall down, everyone died.



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 08:51 AM
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a reply to: blend57

Interesting.

I remember my grandmother telling me that the meaning of the saying 'it's so cold it would freeze the balls off a brass monkey' is naval talk, apparently cannonballs were held in things called brass monkeys and in cold weather they would shrink and the cannon balls would fall off.

And apparently people have a wake because in the middle ages people used to use lead as makeup and that caused people to enter a comatose state and so they held a wake in case the 'cadaver' woke up.



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 09:00 AM
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a reply to: blend57

Interesting Blend, so many of the words/phrases reminded me of my Dad

Also interesting to me is how many of those originated from the Bible.
Have a fine day!



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 09:03 AM
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a reply to: blend57

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!

Oh and here are my results which I will 'take with a healthy grain of salt'!
LOL



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 09:34 AM
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When I was a child I was outraged by "more than one way to skin a cat". I would get upset every time somebody said it.
I think I was in fourth or fifth grade before a teacher told me the actual derivative.



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 10:43 AM
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what is the link to the site?
i didnt see it

thanks though. i love old sayings and slang.
i try to use them a lot



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 11:13 AM
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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.

[/url]


It was worse than that. Toilets weren't even invented then. They just pooped into chamberpots and threw the crap out the windows at all times of the day, shouting "gardyloo", which means to dispose of waste in a rushed manner. Even from the top of a fifteen story tenement building with no indoor plumbing. Splashback would go up two storeys.
Some of those buildings are still around. It's funny to see the outdoor toilets, the compromise of having toilets on the stairwells, and actually having a bathroom.



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 11:48 AM
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a reply to: blend57
What about the "rule of thumb.." I got this off the web.



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.


edit on 10 27 2013 by donktheclown because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 11:55 AM
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posted on Mar, 25 2018 @ 12:21 PM
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a reply to: blend57

Here's another one-the word 'Mafia' with a capital M refers to a well respected citizen, but the word 'mafia' without the Capital M refers to the mob-I might have gotten those mixed up, and as legends go mafia is an Italian acronym for 'Frances death is Italys' cry' but i'm not sure about that one.

But I do know rhyming slang-If you saw a Joe Blake bite someone on the Khyber Pass-That's Australian for 'I saw a snake bite someone on the ass.' And if you saw someone pull a Joe Cocker- that is a shocker and refers to a hilarious blunder of some sort. And the Australian version of 'the horse had bolted' is 'shut the gate!'



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