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The Origins Of Some Famous Sayings

Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr
Tambako The Jaguar, Flickr

When I was 15, I was working three jobs during the summer. I had the overnight (graveyard) shift on the weekends at WZON/Z62 AM, I also held down a spot at the local record store, located in the Bangor Mall and helped out at WHSN, Husson College‘s radio station.

My mom would always tell me the I was going to ‘work myself to death.’ That was one of those phrases that I heard a lot over the years. Other phrases I’ve heard (and I’m sure you have too); ‘A Penny For Your Thoughts,’ ‘A Bird In The Hand,‘ ‘What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger‘ and ‘You’ll Worry Yourself Sick.’

I knew that these famous sayings had to come from somewhere, they had to have some sort of origin. So, I decided to surf the internet to find out how these sayings came to be.

 

Pull The Wool Over Someone’s Eyes:

This goes back to when men used to wear powdered wigs. In those days, the word ‘wool’ as a joking term for hair. This expression came from a man tilting his wig over his eyes, so he couldn’t see what’s going on.

Let The Cat Out Of The Bag:

This goes back to the old country fairs in England. It was a con game where the ‘con’ would try to sell a cat in a burlap bag to the ‘mark’ telling him it was a pig. If the ‘mark’ figured out the trick and wanted to see the animal, the cat had to be let out of the bag.

Caught Red-Handed:

Many years ago, stealing and butchering another man’s livestock was an almost daily crime. It was always hard to prove who did it unless they were caught with the dead animal and with blood on their hands.

Break The Ice:

My Dad was a Merchant Marine and he would tell me about how the severe winter weather could stop a boat in it’s tracks. Before the advent of power equipment, that could save lots of time, the men on board the ship would have to use hand tools to break the ice before the ship could get back to business.

Put On Your Thinking Cap:

Centuries ago, judges would put on a cap before sentencing criminals. Since judges were respected thinkers, it was referred to as their ‘thinking cap.’

 

If you are interested in finding out more about famous phrases and their origins you can start your search HERE.

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