What? How many times have I said that very phrase not realizing why I said it? So then I started wondering about other things we say every day.
In my upcoming release As Good As Gold (part of the Oregon Trail Romance Collection, available 4-1-15 from Barbour Publishing) the hero finds out that it’s the heroine’s birthday. When she asks how he knew, I thought he might say, ‘a little bird told me.’ But did they say that in 1851? When I researched, I discovered that the phrase can be traced back to the Bible.
Ecclesiastes 10:20 (KJV) “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.” To further insure the phrase’s longevity, it was used and popularized in a song by Harvey Brooks in 1947.
Here are a few more popular sayings and their (suspected) origins.
It is widely believed that this phrase has roots in medieval times. It was thought that if newlyweds drank mead (a wine made from honey) each evening for one month (which is a cycle of the moon) they would be blessed with a male heir in that year.
Wet Your Whistle
This saying supposedly came out of an English pub. Once the patrons starting
drinking they would get loud and the bartender had a hard time hearing the drink orders. A whistle was baked right into the rim of a ceramic beer mug. When they wanted a refill, the patrons would blow the whistle for another drink to ‘wet their whistle.’
Mind Your P’s and Q’s
In English pubs, ale was ordered in pints and quarts. When the crowd got rowdy, the bartender would tell them to ‘mind their p’s and q’s.’
Another plausible explanation is that the letters p & q are easily reversible. When a printer was running a press, the boss would tell him to ‘mind his p’s and q’s.’ But then again, they could have easily said b’s and d’s. But that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
Saved By The Bell
After discovering scratch marks on the underside of some coffins and having the ‘dead’ come back to life at funerals, the fear of burying someone alive became very real. (Keep in mind, this is before anyone knew what a coma was.) This led to the family tying a string to the deceased’s wrist. The string was attached to a nearby tree and bell. If they happened to wake up, they rang the bell and were saved.
A “pipe dream” once referenced the dreams experienced by those who smoked opium out of a pipe. Today, it refers to a plan or dream that is impossible to achieve.
Pass The Buck
During a game of cards, a token was used to show who was next to deal. This marker was a bit of buckshot or buck. In order to indicate who had the dealer’s responsibility, the players would literally pass the buck(shot).
Throw Out The Baby With The Bathwater
Some claim the phrase originates from a time when the whole household shared the same bathwater. The head of household would bathe first, followed by any men who lived there. The mistress of the house went next followed by the other women. Then the children bathed in order of their ages until it became the baby’s turn. Supposedly the water would be so dirty that a baby could accidentally be 'tossed out with the bathwater'.
What’s your favorite idiom and do you know its origins?
Feel free to share! Everyone who leaves a comment between now and March 31 will be entered into a drawing to win a paper copy of The Oregon Trail Romance Collection featuring novellas written by some of your favorite Christian authors.
Check out the collection HERE.