21 Surprising Origins Of Common Phrases –


1. Bite the bullet Meaning: to accept something difficult Origin: In times before anesthesia, soldiers were told by surgeons to bite down on a bullet to help with pain during amputations.

2. Caught red handed Meaning: to be caught in the act of doing something wrong History: In an old law, if a person was accused of butchering another man’s animal, they had to be caught with the blood of that animal still on their hands.

3. Butter someone up Meaning: Flatter someone History:Ancient Indian custom of throwing butter at statues of Gods to seek favor

4. Jaywalker Meaning: Crossing the street recklessly History: Jay birds that travel out of forests and into cities often become confused and walk about erratically in streets

5. Kick the bucket Meaning: to die History: A bucket was placed under a cow at the slaughterhouse before it was killed, and sometimes it would knock it over in its death throes

6. Cat got your tongue? Meaning: Said when someone doesn’t know what to say History: IN medieval times, liars and blasphemes would have their tongues ripped out and fed to cats

7. Spill the beans Meaning: Reveal a secret History: In ancient Greek organizations, they would vote n members of certain organizations by dropping beans in cans. White bean for approval. Black if not. Sometimes clumsy voters would knock the cans over, spoiling the secret of the voting method.

8. No spring chicken Meaning: someone past their prime History: New England chicken farmers sold their chickens in spring when they were in their prime. If a chicken wasn’t sold then and tried to sold later, it was considered “no spring chicken.”

9. Rub the wrong way Meaning: To irritate someone History: Referring to colonial woodworkers who would dry-rub the oak against the grain

10. Blood is thicker than water Meaning: Family above all else History: Ancient Middle Eastern cultures practices blood rituals that were actually more powerful than bonds between family. It also refers to the blood shed by brothers in arms who endured battle.

11. Sleep tight Meaning: sleep well History: In Shakespearean times, mattresses were connected to the frames with rope and to make the bed firmer, one had to tighten the rope.

12. Go the whole 9 yards Meaning: to try your best History: WWII fighter pilots had 9 yards of ammo, so if they used it all in a battle, they went “the whole 9 yards.”

13. Pleased as punch Meaning: to be very happy History: A 17th century puppet show for children called Punch and Jay featured a puppet named Punch who would always kill people, then feel very happy with himself afterwards

14. Go cold turkey Meaning: to quit abruptly History: Refers to drug addicts having pale skin with goosebumps during withdrawals, like the skin of a turkey

15. Saved by the bell Meaning: to be rescued from an unwanted situation Origin: Back in the day, they would accidentally bury “dead” people so often, they connected a bell with a string from the coffin leading to the surface so a buried victim could alert gravediggers of the mistake

16. More than you can shake a stick at Meaning: have more of something than you need History: Farmers herded sheep by waving sticks. When they had more sheep than they could control, the phrase was born

17. Break the ice Meaning: Initiate a friendship Origin:In old port cities, before trains or cars, large cargo ships would break through the ice during winter to allow smaller trade vessels passage.

18. Give the cold shoulder Meaning: ignore someone History: In medieval England, it was actually a polite thing to do. To signal to guests it was time to leave, royalty would serve a cold piece of meat from the shoulder of beef or mutton.

19. Show your true colors Meaning: To reveal your true colors History: Warships flew multiple flags to confuse enemies, but rules of warfare states they must show their country’s colors before firing.

20. Rule of thumb Meaning: A common benchmark Origin: 17th Century Judge Sir Francis Buller ruled it legal to beat a wife if the stick was no thicker than his thumb

21. Waking up on wrong side of bed Meaning: waking up grumpy History: The left side of things was associated with evil. To prevent bad spirits, innkeepers even kept the left side of beds pushed up against walls.


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