Over the years, I’ve learned some things ( somethings more useful than others).
Below, some of the things I have learned are listed. These are the meanings behind some phrases that most people never use. Enjoy!
Tongue in cheek:
In the olden days, if you wanted to signal that someone was being annoying/rude/stupid/a dick/not funny/funny without trying to be, then you could turn to a friend and poke your tongue against your cheek! Your friend would get what you were talking about.
All of a sudden:
Shakespeare invented this! In The Taming of the Shrew, one line reads, “Is it possible that love should all of a sodaine take such hold.”
British people are sometimes called “limeys” because they used to take limes and lemons along with them on sea voyages. The British figured out that the citrus prevented sailors from getting scurvy, so they sucked on these fruits all the time!
People used to stir alcoholic drinks with rooster feathers, or a cock’s tail feather. That is why people call alcoholic drinks cocktails!
Limelight is a really, really bright light that is produced when a piece of lime is heated amidst a flame that burns oxygen and hydrogen. It was used in theatre in the 1800s!
In a pickle:
A pickle is a spicy vinegar-based mixture used to preserve food. In the 15th century, it a “pickle” came to refer to a mixture of a bunch of stuff, or a strew. Then, Billiam T. Shakespeare coined the phrase in the Tempest, when Alonso said to Trinculo, “How camest thou in this pickle?”
This word means a young person who acts presumptuously or is overconfident. Apparently, it is derived from the term “snippersnapper”
Wild goose chase:
Billiam T. Shakespeare invented this one too! But, it was different then, In Romeo and Juliet, Mercutio says, Nay, if thy wits run the wild-goose chase.” Back in Will’s day, this referred to a style of horse-racing in which horses follow a leader a set distance and it looks like geese flying in a V formation!
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours:
In the 17th century, if you were a sailor in the British navy, you would be punished by being hit really hard on your back with a wooden board by another crew member. The saying, therefore, refers to a deal made by two sailors not to hit each other too hard, but instead to just scratch each other!
A drop in the bucket:
This is from the Bible! In Isaiah 40:15, it says, “Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket and are counted as the small dust of the balance.”
Now, this word is an adjective meaning “cool.” But, it stands for Port Out, Starboard Home! When British ships travelled to India the best position to put a bed in was on the port (left) side when going to India, and on the starboard (right) side when coming home to England!