Ax to Grind
An old Benjamin Franklin story tells the tale of how a young Franklin was approached by a fellow who stopped to admire the family grindstone. Asking to be shown how it worked, the stranger offered young Ben an ax with which to demonstrate. Once his ax was sharp, the fellow walked off, laughing. Thus anyone with a hidden motive has an ax to grind.
In medieval times, a baker who shorted his customer was tossed in jail for a short time to think about his mistake. So to avoid the inconvenience they started putting thirteen buns in a customer’s order of a dozen.
Dating back hundreds of years ago in Scotland, the best man was more like a partner in crime. When a man wanted to take a wife he simply took her. Since this amounted to kidnapping and the young lady’s family could be expected to object, the groom need courage and manpower. He selected the best and bravest friends to accompany him, and the best among them became known as the “best man” at the wedding.
This word was actually voted into the English language. It dates back to 1910, when a convention was held for the American Association for the Study of the Feeble Minded. While trying to come up with a a name for the people they were studying, one of the delegates suggested the word moron. Moron was a dim-witted, central character in a famous play (at the time) by the playwright Moliere.
Nothing To Write Home About
Would you believe this casual saying dates back almost 2,000 years ago? Pliny the Younger, also known as Caius Plinius Caecilius Secundus, was a Roman senator in the mid first century A.D. who is one of the few people from Antiquity who historians can prove existed. Pliny is known for a large number of letters he had written that managed to survive the years (they still exist today). This passage is the root of today’s phrase: “There is nothing to write about, you say. Well then, write and let me know just this – that there is nothing to write about.” The current version dates to the 19th century.
On a Roll
This phrase takes its name from the gambling tables – more specifically the craps tables. Every crapshooter earns for the time when each roll of the dice will produce another in a long string of wins. Consequently, anyone enjoying a great streak of luck is thought of as being on a roll.
In 1947, the first swimsuit designed to reveal practically everything went on sale. The makers had no idea what to call it, but they noticed that males who saw it for the first time reacted like it was an atomic bomb. Scientists in 1946 had used the Marshall Islands for atomic testing, and had moved 167 natives to Rongerik. Head scientist William H.R. Blandy then used the Bikini atoll for tests of the atomic bomb. Comparing the impact of the new swimsuit with the world-altering events in the Pacific, fashion experts called the garment the bikini.
7aki: The next one is cool, fiction turns to reality!
The term was coined in 1888 by an author named Edward Bellamy, who wrote a fictional account of a young man who wakes up in the year 2000 and discovers that cash has been dumped in favor of “a credit corresponding to his share of the annual product of the nation…and a credit card is issued to him with which he procures at the public storehouses…whatever he desires, whenever he desires it.”
Dead As A Doornail
In the centuries before the doorbell, a visitor’s arrival was announced by pounding with a knocker upon a metal plate nailed to the door. The nails holding the knocking plate took a beating and had to be routinely replaced. These useless doornails were referred to as being dead.
Do Or Die
Sometime during the 16th century, Scottish writer Robert Lindsay wrote the following line: “He knew weill thair was no remedie but ether to do or die.” The expression caught on from there.
7aki: Most people know this one:
It literally means “I have it” in Greek. Its first use in the form we use today was believed to have come from the Greek mathematician Archimedes in 287 B.C. Archimedes was trying to determine the amount of silver that had been used in making a crown for the king which had been ordered to be of pure gold. As he was preparing to take a bath one day he stepped into an overflowing tub and realized that an object surrounded by a fluid is buoyed up by a force equal to the weight of the fluid which it displaces (this would become Archimedes’ law of hydrostatics). He concluded that if he weighed out an amount of gold equal to the weight of the crown and placed then separately into a full basin of water, the difference in the weight of the overflow would prove the crown was not solid gold. Archimedes was so excited by his discovery that he jumped out of his bath and ran home naked, all the while shouting “Eureka! Eureka!”
7aki: Interesting .. hehehe
This comes from the Latin word fornix, which means “arch”. In ancient Rome, prostitutes found the best place for soliciting business was underneath the arches of the Colosseum. Men whose passions were aroused by violence of the games found it hard to resist the women.
7aki: the poor Geese 😦
Geese were important in the life of medieval Britain, so important that goose herds spent their lives tending to flocks. Many owners plucked their geese five times a year, leaving them totally naked until new feathers grew. When cold air hit such a bird, tiny muscled just under the skin would contract and create patterns of pimples. These patterns resembled the same bumps that people would sometimes get, and the name stuck.
Having A Screw Loose
The phrase dates back to the 1780s cotton industry, when machinery began making mass production of textile goods possible. Huge mills were built to take advantage of the new technology, but it was difficult to keep the machines working properly; any machine that broke down or produced defective goods was said to have a “screw loose” somewhere – whether that was the reason or not.
Rack Your Brains
William Beveridge is the person attributed with coming up with this phrase, meaning to strain to remember or solve something, back in 1680. The rack was an instrument of torture on which peoples’ bodies were stretched. Beveridge noted that at times people seem to be stretching their minds to get it to function as desired: “They rack their brains…they hazard their lives for it.”
In the Old West it was the job of the person seated next to the driver to keep a lookout for trouble. This person kept his weapon, usually a shotgun, ready at all times in case it had to be used.
7aki: Ewww warning
As sick as it is, this originated as a slang term referring to a used condom.
In Shakespeare’s time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on. That’s where the phrase, “goodnight, sleep tight” came from
Until Hell Freezes Over
While it’s expected that this would be an old expression, there is no recorded use of it in print until the 20th century. In 1919, Admiral J.A. Fisher, former first sea lord of the British Admiralty, signed off a letter saying, “Yours till hell freezes.”
The true sense of the Latin expression circulous vitiosos is derived from philosophy. To philosophers, this meant a circular argument, in which the proof of one statement depended in part on a second statement, whose proof, in turn, depended upon the correctness of the first.
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