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Buttercup
2010-Oct-09, 02:46 PM
I enjoyed this, thought you might too. (http://shine.yahoo.com/channel/life/surprising-origins-of-everyday-phrases-2395118/)

Perikles
2010-Oct-09, 04:33 PM
Thanks for that, though to be honest, I didn't find any of them actually surprising. There seems to be a lot of guessing ....

grapes
2010-Oct-09, 04:39 PM
Quite a few of the explanations seem bogus to me, e.g. "shake a stick at" (George Washington?) and "cold shoulder" (get serious)

danscope
2010-Oct-09, 05:40 PM
Hi, Nice collection of old tradition. Brings the meaning home.

"...... Why is it that when you run your boat up on a sand bar or mud or rock, you are said to be "Fast aground" ,...when in fact you aren't
going anywhere at all ? " :)

Gillianren
2010-Oct-09, 06:30 PM
Actually, "cold shoulder" was one of the ones I knew he was right on. I believe the article acknowledges the speculative nature of "shake a stick at," and indeed it was "cat got your tongue" that I didn't go for. And, of course, none of my "test the guy's gullibility" phrases were on the list. Never trust anyone who gives you a definitive meaning for "the whole nine yards."

grapes
2010-Oct-09, 07:27 PM
Actually, "cold shoulder" was one of the ones I knew he was right on. He claims it was from medieval times, but even websites that come close to his palpably ben trovato explanation say that the earliest citation was after 1800. And here's one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_shoulder)that seems to say Sir Walter Scott had not only the first citations but was probably the inventor. It mentions a cold shoulder of mutton as a folk entymology, but it doesn't even come close to the Woman's Day article, which claims that the cold shoulder was originally a good thing.

Gillianren
2010-Oct-09, 07:38 PM
Well, fair. But I think you can see its roots in Hamlet, with the funeral baked meats serving cold to furnish the wedding feast.

grapes
2010-Oct-09, 07:55 PM
I dunno. Those would be roots, if the term "cold shoulder" had at any time in its usage referred to dinner meat, but it looks like there are no such citations.

This guy Albert Jack, who calls himself a historian, isn't he just a writer? :)

Gillianren
2010-Oct-09, 08:07 PM
Yeah, but William Safire did some great etymological analysis, and he was a political writer!

grapes
2010-Oct-09, 08:17 PM
I used to read Safire's columns and books all the time, one last week, but I don't think he did the analysis so much as reported on the analysis. Same thing Jack is trying to do, worsely.

Buttercup
2010-Oct-09, 08:29 PM
I did ask my cat about the origins of "cat got your tongue" but she said we inferior good-as-servants-only bipeds will never get the answer from The Feline Overlords. :rolleyes:

geonuc
2010-Oct-09, 08:50 PM
Buttercup - you should check out Take Our Word For It. They often have interesting word origin stuff.

http://www.takeourword.com/

SeanF
2010-Oct-10, 12:01 AM
I have mentioned this site many times before here, but I'll do it again. The Word Detective (http://www.word-detective.com). He agrees with Grapes' link above that "cold shoulder" must likely does not have anything to do with meat.

The very first one on the list, "bare-faced lie," convinced me that the article probably wasn't worth reading. The meaning of bare-faced lie is pretty self-explanatory - it's a simple, straight-forward false statement with no embellishment to try to make it sound better. For that matter, "turn a blind eye" does not need for someone to have literally done it in order to provide a basis for the expression.

The Word Detective agrees with the OP for at least some - humble pie and pass the buck, for certain - but disagrees on most. "Cat got your tongue," for example, has not been found in print any earlier than 1911, so it almost certainly doesn't come from anything that happened in medieval times.

Trebuchet
2010-Oct-10, 12:09 AM
The story of Nelson "turning a blind eye" seems to have been spread by Nelson himself, some time after the fact. He did ignore the recall signal from his commander, but so did every other ship in his squadron.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Oct-10, 02:19 AM
Amok on the other hand was OK, though it failed to mention that the majority of people attacked by the amok runner would invariably be immigrant Chinese.

mugaliens
2010-Oct-11, 04:16 AM
My brother, God help him, actually helped me out through life with one of the most succenct, yet pertinant sayings in life of all times: "language Happens."

It was a bumper sticker on his cooler. The key is that we can effect changes to some things, but by no means all things. Consider Castaway. Some might respond by banning anyone who mentions it. Others might respond by going, "wow. That's some deep stuff, marooned on an island for several years. Wow." Guage your people, folks, and be prepared to cut loose those among you who will only slow us down."

dwnielsen
2010-Oct-11, 11:53 AM
It's interesting how many different contexts some of these phrases can survive in..

Kick the Bucket

From Wikipedia:
A common theory is that the idiom comes from a method of suicide in the Middle Ages.[3] A noose is tied around the neck while standing on an overturned bucket. When the pail is kicked away, the victim is hanged.
Another theory relates to the alternate definition of a bucket as a beam or yoke that can be used to hang or carry things on.[1][4] The "bucket" may refer to the beam on which slaughtered pigs are suspended. The animals may struggle on the bucket, hence the expression.[1] The word "bucket" still can be used today to refer to such a beam in the Norfolk dialect.[5] It is thought that this definition came from the French word trébuchet or buque, meaning balance.[1][4] William Shakespeare used the word in this sense in his play Henry IV Part II where he says:[1]
Swifter then he that gibbets on the Brewers Bucket.
—William Shakespeare, Henry IV Part II
A third theory suggests that the origin of the phrase comes from the Catholic custom of holy-water buckets:[6]
After death, when a body had been laid out ... and ... the holy-water bucket was brought from the church and put at the feet of the corpse. When friend came to pray... they would sprinkle the body with holy water ... it is easy to see how such a saying as "kicking the bucket " came about. Many other explanations of this saying have been given by persons who are unacquainted with Catholic custom
—The Right Reverend Abbot Horne, Relics of Popery
A fourth suggests that the phrase comes from a children's game. The person who kicks the bucket loses the game.[7]

Jens
2010-Oct-11, 01:36 PM
... folk entymology,

Would that be the study of the origins of insect language? :)

Gillianren
2010-Oct-11, 07:04 PM
A third theory suggests that the origin of the phrase comes from the Catholic custom of holy-water buckets:[6]
After death, when a body had been laid out ... and ... the holy-water bucket was brought from the church and put at the feet of the corpse. When friend came to pray... they would sprinkle the body with holy water ... it is easy to see how such a saying as "kicking the bucket " came about. Many other explanations of this saying have been given by persons who are unacquainted with Catholic custom
—The Right Reverend Abbot Horne, Relics of Popery

I definitely agree with the statement that it would be from people unacquainted with Catholic custom; that isn't one. Bodies are washed, but not in holy water. Bodies are sprinkled with holy water, but certainly not from anything large enough to be called a bucket. And it wouldn't really get near the feet enough to be thought of as being kicked anyway. I lean toward the suicide explanation.

Safire did do a little of his own research, mostly through the morgue. And isn't the use of that word in this context fun?

kleindoofy
2010-Oct-11, 10:07 PM
Many Phrases are indeed very difficult to understand without having detailed knowledge of the times.

There's a phrase in German which now means "to die." It's "to give up the spoon" ("den Löffel abgeben"). Another means "to accelerate" or "to do something more intensely." It's "to add a notch/tooth" ("einen Zahn zulegen"). Both come from the days when multi-generation farmer families cooked meals in one large fireplace.

The main large spoon used to stir the pots was always wielded by the wife of the head farmer. When the farm was passed on to the son (by the still living but now old farmer), his wife had to pass control of the spoon to the daughter-in-law, hence "giving up the spoon." Since the retired farmer generation usually didn't live very long, "giving up the spoon" became a colloquialism for dying.

In the same fireplace, the pots hung on a chain which was attached to a notched rod on the side. By "adding a notch" (aka tooth), the pot was lowered closer to the fire which increased to heat in the pot.

Donnie B.
2010-Oct-11, 10:19 PM
Couldn't it also refer to the involuntary muscle spasms that sometimes accompany death? That might explain the kicking part, at least.

dwnielsen
2010-Oct-12, 07:00 AM
Might the bucket then be a bedpan?

Buttercup
2010-Oct-12, 11:54 AM
Buttercup - you should check out Take Our Word For It. They often have interesting word origin stuff.

http://www.takeourword.com/

Thank you, geonuc. I'll check it out. :)

Strange
2010-Oct-12, 12:05 PM
The Phrase Finder (http://www.phrases.org.uk/) is a useful resource as well.

SkepticJ
2010-Oct-12, 04:42 PM
Yeah, but where did hole-in-one, home run, and slam dunk come from?

Answer that, scientists!

kleindoofy
2010-Oct-12, 08:35 PM
Yeah, but where did hole-in-one, home run, and slam dunk come from? ...
It's funny to listen to Europeans, most of whom who have more or less no knowledge of baseball, use the term "Grand Slam" when referring the four major international professional tennis tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open).

They usually think it's a tennis term about hitting a hard serve or something along those lines. Hardly any of them know it's a baseball term to which the number four is intrinsic and implies the possibility of winning all four of the tournaments.

When I tell them what it means, they are usually indeed surprised by the origin of such an everyday phrase.

SeanF
2010-Oct-12, 08:42 PM
It's funny to listen to Europeans, most of whom who have more or less no knowledge of baseball, use the term "Grand Slam" when referring the four major international professional tennis tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open).

They usually think it's a tennis term about hitting a hard serve or something along those lines. Hardly any of them know it's a baseball term to which the number four is intrinsic and implies the possibility of winning all four of the tournaments.

When I tell them what it means, they are usually indeed surprised by the origin of such an everyday phrase.
I wonder if they use the expression "struck out" without knowing it's a baseball term, too... :)

I once heard that someone had tried to claim that the baseball term "grand slam" itself came from a brand of meat, "Grand Salami." I didn't hear the claim first-hand or not, so I don't actually know that the person was not being facetious, but the person telling me about believed it to be sincere. All I could do was shake my head in disbelief.

JohnD
2010-Oct-12, 10:00 PM
I fear that baseball may have reused a previously coined word or phrase. The OED attributes the words 'grand slam' to "orig. name of card game. peh[aps] f.[rench] obs.[olete] slampant - trickery".
Perhaps from French Canada?

But 'well known phrases and sayings'? It has been known for a new listener to Shakespeare to exclaim that it's all full of sayings!
Watch Mel Gibson's 'Hamlet', a good example of a popular version of the play, heavily edited so that in some scenes, the editing has pruned out all the verse, leaving the players spouting "wellknown phrases or sayings" at each other.
Quite apart from the celebrated phrases - Alas, poor Yorick! etc. - that appear mannered today, there are many, many other phrases that have left Shakespear to the benefit of English.

A very, very few, and only from Hamlet:
"I must be cruel, only to be kind."
"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, But in battalions."
"dog will have his day"
" the fall of a sparrow"

"The rest is silence." Only, thanks to Shakespear, it isn't.

John

grant hutchison
2010-Oct-12, 10:11 PM
Yes, the OED attests the use of slam (winning all the tricks in a card game) back to the seventeenth century, and Grand Slam (winning all thirteen tricks in bridge) as early as 1814.

"Struck out" isn't much used in British English, but I suspect we see enough American television to be generally aware of the baseball connection.

Grant Hutchison

kleindoofy
2010-Oct-12, 10:30 PM
I fear that baseball may have reused a previously coined word or phrase. ...

Yes, the OED attests the use of slam (winning all the tricks in a card game) back to the seventeenth century, and Grand Slam (winning all thirteen tricks in bridge) as early as 1814. ...
Be that as it may, the connotation of four and the modern day usage, which may be secondary, is rather suggestive.

However, etymology is and will remain a mine field. Independant of this case, neither the OED nor Kluge have a subscription to the truth. whatever that may be.

grapes
2010-Oct-13, 04:45 PM
Be that as it may, the connotation of four and the modern day usage, which may be secondary, is rather suggestive.
Not really. I'm not even a casual bridge player, and I knew the term from bridge. I'm sure it was borrowed from bridge when it was coined in baseball.

A little googling shows the number of competitions involved in Grand Slams of harness racing (4), tunnel boat racing (4), grouse (http://www.theatlantic.com/food/archive/2010/10/grand-slam-of-grouse-a-cook-goes-hunting-in-north-dakota/64170/) (6), grass (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Slam_of_Grass) (4), ultrarunning (http://www.run100s.com/gs.htm) (4), curling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capital_One_Grand_Slam_of_Curling) (3-5), darts (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Slam_of_Darts) (1? many?), turkeys (http://www.huntingnet.com/staticpages/staticpage_detail.aspx?id=210) (4), rugby (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Slam_(rugby_union)) (4 < 2000AD, 5 after, but see etymology note at that page), adventure (http://www.clarksvilleonline.com/2010/07/19/american-woman-makes-history-with-adventure-grand-slam/) (9), oscars (http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/560801/oscars_greatest_films_and_sweeps_and.html) (5), sheep hunting (http://www.wildsheep.org/about/history.htm)(4), trout (http://troutbungalow.com/2010/02/18/the-grand-slam/)(4).

I guess it depends.

JohnD
2010-Oct-13, 10:03 PM
Exactly, precisely, absoloutely! That, reusing and revising the meaning of words is one of the glories of English, whoever speaks it.
When I went to work in Darkest Devon, I was a bit put out to be greeted by straight men as "Hello, my luvurr!".
This evening, on UK TV, BBC4, a programme by Michael Wood, "Story of England" (see it again if you can on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00v9kb5/Michael_Woods_Story_of_England_Peasants_Revolt_to_ Tudors/ ) featured a letter written from a leading citizen of Coventry to a London alderman (who was from Coventry) asking him to to return and be Mayor. The highly literate letter, that argued a business and political case, was signed, "your lover".

'Course, they may have been gay!

The fascination and interest is not in the first use, but in the re-use!

John

Trebuchet
2010-Oct-13, 11:32 PM
It's funny to listen to Europeans, most of whom who have more or less no knowledge of baseball, use the term "Grand Slam" when referring the four major international professional tennis tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, and US Open).

They usually think it's a tennis term about hitting a hard serve or something along those lines. Hardly any of them know it's a baseball term to which the number four is intrinsic and implies the possibility of winning all four of the tournaments.

When I tell them what it means, they are usually indeed surprised by the origin of such an everyday phrase.

Around here, that's a "Grand Salami". We may not have much of a team, but at least we still have Dave Niehaus (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dave_Niehaus).

kleindoofy
2010-Oct-14, 12:11 AM
... I'm sure it was borrowed from bridge when it was coined in baseball. ...
Ahh, I guess my ignorance of card games has revealed further ignorance on my side.

Nothing new there.

Go Red Sox!

Trebuchet
2010-Oct-14, 01:11 AM
Ahh, I guess my ignorance of card games has revealed further ignorance on my side.

Nothing new there.

Go Red Sox!

As long as it's not the Yankees.