The Weird And Wonderful Origins Of 30 Popular Sayings.
The English language is full of funny little sayings and phrases that are so often used, we rarely stop to think about what they actually mean. Just like everything else in this crazy world, all of these phrases have a history. We've compiled some of the more popular ones and outlined them for your conversational pleasure. You'll definitely be surprised by #16.
#1. "Chip on your shoulder"
Meaning: Having a grudge.
Origin: In the Royal Navy Dockyards of Britain in the 1600's and 1700's, worker were entitled to take timber home. However, realizing that this was costing too much money, the rules changed: Instead of the workers being allowed to carry wood on their shoulders, they could only carry wood with their hands. This meant that they all left work with a little less wood - and little bit more resentment.
#2. "Bite the bullet"
Meaning: To do something difficult.
Origin: In past wars, there was no time for doctors to give soldiers drugs before performing an operation. Soldiers were often given a bullet to bite down on in order to take their focus away from the pain.
#3. "That's all she wrote."
Meaning: To be finished or completed abruptly.
Origin: This one came from a story about an American soldier in World War II who received a letter from his girlfriend that only said "Dear John." When his fellow soldiers asked him to read further, the soldier said "That's all she wrote" - meaning that the woman had broken up with him. Ouch.
#4. "Break the ice"
Meaning: To begin a conversation.
Origin: Long ago, small ships known as “icebreakers” would rescue larger ships that were caught in ice. The smaller ships did so by breaking through the solid ice and creating a path by which the larger ship could exit.
#5. "To butter someone up"
Meaning: To flatter someone
Origin: This phrase comes from an ancient Indian custom that involved throwing butter at statues of the gods. This was supposed to be an act of humility and people did so in the hopes that the gods would look upon them favorably.
#6. "Cat got your tongue?"
Meaning: Something said when a person is at a loss for words.
Origin: The English Navy used to have a weapon called the "cat-o-nine" tails. It was used for flogging. The weapon caused so much pain that it often left the victims speechless.
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