Advertisement - Scroll down for content
Advertisement - Scroll down for content
The origins of some common expressions (14 Photos)
Barking up the wrong tree.
What it means: You have misguided thoughts about a situation, or are looking in all the wrong places.
Origin: This phrase comes from hunting dogs that would chase their prey up a tree. Sometimes, the prey would have escaped, leaving the dog barking up the wrong tree.
Mad as a hatter.
What it means: You’re insane.
Origin: Way back in the day, in 17th century France, hat makers would use mercury for their hat felt. The “Mad Hatters Disease” showed symptoms of shyness, irritability, and tremors that would make the hat maker appear to be, well, crazy.
Caught red handed.
What it means: To be caught in the act of doing something wrong.
Origin: This saying dates back to Old England, when you would get thrown in the clink for butchering an animal that wasn’t yours. Lack of CSI agents in those times meant that the only way you could be convicted was if you were caught with the animals blood on your hands.
Rub the wrong way.
What it means: To annoy or bother someone.
Origin: In colonial times, wealthy people would ask their servants to scrub their floorboards the “right way”, which meant using dry cloth after an initial wipe down with wet cloth. “The wrong way” left streaks and ruined the boards, because a dry cloth wasn’t used. Some people also believe that this phrase comes from petting a cats fur the wrong way, which pisses them off to no end.
Bite the bullet.
What it means: Suck it up, deal with it.
Origin: Back in the day, when doctors didn’t have anesthesia during a battle, he would ask his patient to literally bite down on a bullet to distract them from the pain.
Bury the hatchet.
What it means: Make peace. Put the past behind you and move on.
Origin: This one derives from when the Puritans were having major conflicts with the Native Americans. When they negotiated peace, the Native’s would literally bury their hatchets and weapons so deep that they were inaccessible.
Give a cold shoulder.
What it means: Being antisocial towards someone.
Origin: In the olden days of England, it was customary for the host to give their guests a cold piece of meat from the shoulder of a mutton, pork, or beef chop when they wanted their guests to leave. It was kind of a polite way of saying “Get outta here, Butters”.
The whole 9 yards.
What it means: Try your best, give it all you’ve got.
Origin: In world war 2, fighter pilots had 9 yards of bullets, so when they would run out, it meant that they had done the best they could to shoot down the enemy.
Butter someone up.
What it means: To flatter or impress someone.
Origin: In ancient India, the devout would literally throw balls of butter at statues of their gods, seeking favour and forgiveness.
Cat got your tongue?
What it means: At a loss for words?
Origin: The old British navy would use a “Cat-O’-9-tails” for whipping. The pain was often so intense that the victim would remain completely silent. Other people believe that the source of this phrase comes from Ancient Egypt, in which the tongues of liars were cut off and fed to the cats.
Break the ice.
What it means: To commence a conversation or friendship.
Origin: Way back when road travel wasn’t much of a thing for traders, ships would have to transfer all trading goods. They would often find themselves stuck in the ice, so ships of the receiving country would come out to break the ice and set them free. This was seen as a good gesture of mutual appreciation.
Let one’s hair down.
What it means: Kick back, relax.
Origin: Back in medieval times, aristocratic women would wear their hair high and tight, only letting it down once they were at home and out of the public eye.
Turn a blind eye.
What it means: To ignore the reality.
Origin: Horatio Nelson had a blind eye. Once when he was given the signal to stop attacking a fleet of Danish ships, he raised his telescope up to his blind eye and declared that he doesn’t see a signal. He was eventually victorious, the cheeky bastard.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
What it means: Don’t get rid of your valuables along with the unnecessary things.
Origin: This one is nasty, fair warning. In the 1500’s, people would bathe once a year, and they wouldn’t change the water between people. The adult males would go first, then the females, then the children. By the time it was the kids turn, the water would be murky. So murky in fact, that the mothers had to take extra care to be sure that they didn’t throw the baby out when they were dumping the water. That would be extremely upsetting.