We use phrases, expressions, and proverbs on a daily basis when conversing with each other. Whether you’re at home, hanging out with some friends, or at work, chances are that you’ve uttered one of the phrases below more than once in your life. But, do you ever stop to think about what these expressions really mean? Where they come from? The answer to this is probably no, so let’s take a look at 8 common phrases and learn where there came from.
1. It’s Raining Cats and Dogs
Houses used to have thatched roofs. These roofs had thick straw piled together to form a ceiling, but there was no wood underneath.
So how did this phrase come about? Well, according to a popular theory, on cold nights, animals such as cats, dogs, mice, and rats would climb onto these roofs in order to have a warm place to sleep. Unfortunately, when it started to rain, the thatched roofs got so slippery that cats and dogs would slip and fall off the roofs. Therefore, when it rained heavily, it would literally rain cats and dogs (and whatever other animals were on the roofs).
2. Mad as a Hatter
The average person will probably tell you that this famous expression comes from Alice in Wonderland, but they’d be sorely mistaken. The Mad Hatter character isn’t the reason you use this phrase when describing someone who has lost their mind.
The true origin goes back to the days when actual hatmakers used mercury to construct their hats. The mercury poisoned the hatmakers and affected their nervous systems. Mercury causes aggressive, heavy mood swings, and erratic behavior and, as a result, “mad hatter’s disease” became the nickname for mercury poisoning, and the expression has been popular ever since.
3. Cat Got Your Tongue?
This is often used when someone is silent or at a loss for words. Surprisingly though, it has nothing to do with cats. In the English navy, punishments were handed out in the form of a flogging, which was carried out with a whip known as a cat-o’-nine-tails.
This was a formidable weapon, and the pain from being flogged by it was so bad that it caused its victims to go mute. They would often be afraid to speak and would often remain mute for a long time after a flogging.
Drunken navy sailors would then walk around shouting, “Cat got your tongue?” as a way of taunting the victims. So, next time you’re rendered speechless because someone made a really good point, remember that it could be a lot worse.
4. Bring Home the Bacon
There are a number of theories as to where this phrase comes from, but the two most popular include pigs.
According to one theory, this phrase comes from winners at state fairs bringing home the greased pigs they caught in competitions. However, the more popular theory is that highly successful men back in the day would buy pork, cook some bacon, and then hang it on their walls when they had guests over. This showed everyone how successful the men were. Walking into a man’s house and seeing bacon hanging on the wall meant that he was to be respected. In this particular case, bringing home the bacon was the ultimate sign of power and class.
5. Eat Crow
Usually, we have to “eat crow” when we’ve been proven wrong after taking a strong stance on something.
The expression originates from where you’d expect. Crow meat tastes bad and is hard to swallow. The simple connection to this term can start and end here, but there’s an even more interesting origin story.
Back in 1812, an American accidentally went hunting across British enemy lines. The US soldier was caught shooting and killing a crow by a British soldier. As punishment, the British soldier, after praising the American for his accurate shooting, tricked him into giving up his gun.
Now armed, the Brit pointed the gun at the American and forced him to take a bite out of the crow. After the American complied, he was given back his gun. Angered, the American then turned the gun on the British soldier and forced him to eat the rest of the bird.
6. On Cloud Nine
It’s often thought that this is a reference to Heaven, but this is not true.
According to one known origin of this expression, one of the classifications of clouds, defined by the US Weather Bureau in the 1950s, is known as “Cloud Nine.” This is a type of fluffy, cumulonimbus type of cloud.
So, what makes this cloud so special? Well, this cloud is considered to be the most attractive in the cloud community, which is what gives the phrase it’s positive connotation.
7. Crocodile Tears
For those who may not know, this expression refers to someone who is faking crying or pretending to be upset. When they do this, they are said to be shedding crocodile tears.
Did this phrase come about because crocodiles never cry? Well, no, the origin is a lot more interesting than that. In an ancient anecdote, Photios claimed that crocodiles cry to strategically lure their prey closer to them. When the prey is close enough, the crocodiles drop the act and go in for the kill.
8. Don’t Throw the Baby Out with the Bathwater
This strange expression goes all the way back to the 1500s. Believe it or not, but people in the 16th century only bathed once a year, and to make matters worse, entire groups used to bathe in the same water.
The men would go first, then the women, and then the children and babies went last. The water was so dirty by the time the babies got in, that they often came out clouded. Sometimes, mothers had to make sure that the babies weren’t literally thrown out with the dirty bathwater.
The phrase, “don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater,” now means that you should make sure you don’t throw out anything valuable while getting rid of unnecessary things. Nothing is more valuable than a newborn baby, so the phrase still rings true even to this day.
Most remember October 29th, 1929—also known as Black Tuesday—as the day when the New York stock market crashed. However, it was also the day when one of the most horrific tragedy involving human-animal conflict happened at the Brooklyn Bridge.
On that awful day a trio of three circus elephants, including the star attraction—a thirteen-foot-tall African elephant named Jumbo, was to cross the Brooklyn Bridge and into New York. The event was greatly publicized and crowds of people came from miles around to see Jumbo. While crossing the bridge, something caused the animals to panic and what was to be a slow and deliberate cross suddenly became a deadly stampede as the three elephants charged into the cheering crowd. Aside from scores of human casualty, two of the elephants died in the stampede, while Jumbo escaped to freedom through the Holland Tunnel and lived out his days at an elephant sanctuary.
When a new bronze memorial to the tragedy was unveiled at the Brooklyn Bridge Park last month, it left visitors scratching their heads because no one ever remembered hearing or reading about the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede of 1929. That’s because the tragedy never happened. It’s a satirical piece of art by sculptor Joe Reginella.
Last year, the prankster-artist erected another memorial to yet another fabricated tragedy—the so-called Staten Island Ferry Disaster—in Battery Park. The story goes, that on November 2nd, 1963, a Staten Island Ferry with over 400 people onboard was attacked by a giant octopus and was pulled beneath the water resulting in the death of all passengers. According to Reginella, the disaster went almost completely unnoticed by the public because it was overshadowed by another more “newsworthy” tragedy that occurred that day—the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
As part of the hoax, Reginella created a fake documentary, fabricated newspaper articles and distributed flyers to puzzled tourists sending them to a nonexistent museum on Staten Island.
The memorial to the 1963 Staten Island Ferry Disaster. Photo credit: Ula Ilnytzky
The idea for the hoax came to him when Reginella was taking his 11-year-old nephew on the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island. To satisfy the kid’s curious questions, such as if the waters were infested with shark, Reginella fabricated the story of a giant octopus attack.
“The story just rolled off the top of my head,” he told The Guardian, and it evolved to become “a multimedia art project and social experience – not maliciously – about how gullible people are”.
In the early few days after the memorial was unveiled, Reginella sat close by with a fishing pole pretending to fish so that he could eavesdrop on the conversations. Sometimes he overheard people wondering why nobody ever heard of it. Others simply stared out at the water and walked away.
While the Staten Island Ferry Disaster never happened, there is actually a bit of interesting history behind Reginella’s latest hoax—the Brooklyn Bridge Elephant Stampede. Elephants belonging to the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus did actually cross the Brooklyn Bridge in 1884, when the circus came to town. One of the elephants, a thirteen-foot and seven-ton African, was actually named Jumbo. He was accompanied by twenty other elephants, seven camels and ten dromedaries in what was known as Barnum’s legendary “elephant walk.”
Neither memorials are permanent, and are displayed only on specific days and times. Consult the memorials’ websites for timing before you decide to visit.
Source….Kaushik in http://www.amusingplanet.com
A photographer from a well know national magazine was assigned to cover the fires at Yellowstone National Park. The magazine wanted to show the heroic work of the fire fighters as they battled the blaze.
When the photographer arrived, he realized that the smoke was so thick that it would seriously impede or make it impossible for him to photograph anything from ground level.
He requested permission to rent a plane and take photos from the air. His request was approved and arrangements were made. He was told to report to a nearby airport where a plane would be waiting for him.
He arrived at the airport and saw a plane warming up near the gate. He jumped in with his bag and shouted, “Let’s go!” The pilot swung the little plane into the wind, and within minutes they were in the air.
The photographer said, “Fly over the park and make two or three low passes so I can take some pictures.”
“Why?” asked the pilot. “Because I am a photographer,” he responded, “and photographers take photographs.”
The pilot was silent for a moment; finally he stammered, “You mean you’re not the flight instructor?”