October 28, 2022 3:02 am
On this episode of Our American Stories, here again with his recurring series is "Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases" author, Andrew Thompson, as he continues to share another slice from his ultimate guide to understanding these baffling mini mysteries of the English language.
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To learn more, visit Bose.com. We continue with our American stories and up next we continue with our recurring series about the curious origins of everyday sayings. Here to join us once again is Andrew Thompson as he continues to share another slice from his ultimate kind to understanding these mini mysteries of the English language. A goody two shoes is someone who is virtuous in a smug manner and it derives from the 1765 children's book The History of Little Goody Two Shoes written by Oliver Goldsmith. It tells the story of Marjorie Meanwell, an orphan who can only afford one shoe. She is given a pair of shoes by a rich man and in her excitement yells two shoes, two shoes.
She repeats this to everyone she meets earning the nickname goody two shoes. A great white hope is someone or something expected to achieve great success and it has its origins in the sporting arena in particular boxing. It also has racial connotations. Jack Johnson became the first African-American world heavyweight boxing champion when he beat the Canadian Tommy Burns in a bout that took place in Sydney Australia in 1908. Racial animosity among white boxing fans was so intense that they called for another white boxer to take back the title. To answer the call James Jeffries, a white American boxer came out of retirement to fight Johnson.
Jeffries was billed as the great white hope but he too was beaten by Johnson in 1910 triggering violent racial riots across the country. If you say someone that is green with envy you're saying that they're very jealous or envious and that expression began in ancient Greece. The Greeks believed that various illnesses and restless emotions such as jealousy were accompanied by an overproduction of bile which lent a pallid green color to a person's complexion. In the seventh century the Greek poet Sappho described a stricken lover as being green but it was Shakespeare who popularized the expression.
In his 1603 play Othello when he wrote beware my lord of jealousy is the green-eyed monster which doth mock the meat it feeds on. To be grinning like a Cheshire cat is to be very pleased with oneself and smile broadly without any inhibition. That expression has mixed origins. There is no such breed of cat as the Cheshire cat but the expression began because all cheeses produced in Cheshire in England since the 12th century had the face of a grinning cat stamped on them. This is also thought to be the origin of the expression cheesy grin. The expression was first used by Peter Pinder in a work he did in 1795 but it wasn't until 1865 that the saying reached worldwide popularity.
That was in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland where the mysterious Cheshire cat appears and disappears gradually fading away until only its enormous grin remains. To be gung-ho means to be eager and zealous and it originated during World War II. It's an adaptation of the Chinese words kung meaning work and ho meaning together. The term was anglicized by General Evans Carlson who had spent time in China before the war. He adopted gung-ho as a slogan for his U.S. Marines unit known as the Carlson Raiders who served in the Pacific region.
The 1943 war film gung-ho told the story of Carlson's Raiders and brought the expression into the mainstream. A hair of the dog is an expression which means an alcoholic drink intended to cure a hangover and the expression is actually contraction of the full expression the hair of the dog that bit you and it's got strange origins. It lies in medieval English medicine where it was believed that if someone was bitten by a rabid dog any ill effects would be cured by rubbing the same dog's hair into the infected wound which would then heal.
Despite the obvious risks of being bitten again while acquiring the hair this practice actually did persist for many years. Eventually it came to be used in relation to people having a couple of extra drinks to cure a hangover, a remedy that also has often temporary success. Hand over fist means quickly or at a fast rate and is often used in relation to money saying someone was making money hand over fist or losing money hand over fist. It's an expression that has nautical origins. It was originally hand over hand when it began in the early 1700s and was used to describe the fast progression of a sailor climbing up or hauling in a rope one hand quickly going over the other.
It was later modified to hand over fist describing the flat hand passing over the fist that clenched the rope and went on to mean anything happening quickly. To hang fire means to wait before beginning something and it's an expression that originated in the 16th century when muzzle loaded weaponry was used. When the trigger of a musket is pulled a small quantity of gunpowder is ignited in an area called the priming pan. The flame from there burns through towards the barrel and sets off the main charge.
Possibly because of the poor or inconsistent quality of the gunpowder there was often a delay between the ignition in the priming pan and the detonation of the main charge that expelled the bullet. This period of delay was called the hang fire. If you say something is hanging by a thread you mean it is ready to fall apart or could change at any instant and that expression originated from a banquet held in 400 BC by Dionysius the Elder, the tyrant king of ancient Syracuse for Damocles, one of his courtiers. The king had become annoyed with Damocles' constant flattery and invited him to the banquet. There was a sword hung by the ceiling suspended by a single hair. Damocles was required to sit beneath it to remind him of his tenuous position in the court.
Both the sword and Damocles' life were hanging by a thread. Hard and fast means inflexible or rigidly adhered to and it's yet another nautical phrase. When a ship has run aground and is firmly beached on land it is considered hard and fast and is unable to move until the tide comes in. The term was defined in William Henry Smythe's 1867 nautical dictionary the sailor's word book as said of a ship on shore.
The term dates from the 1800s and was used in a figurative sense since that time as well. To haul someone over the coals means to severely reprimand them for something and it originated from the treatment of heretics in the middle ages. Heresy is the challenge of the doctrines of an established church or the practice of unorthodox religions. At the time heresy was considered a crime against the church and was punishable by death. However very few people would admit to it and the crime was difficult to prove. To combat these evidentiary difficulties anyone suspected of heresy would be bound and then pulled over a bed of red hot coals.
It was decreed that if the person died he was obviously an heretic and deserved his fate but if he survived the torture God had protected him and he would be set free. To have a frog in your throat means a feeling of horse and the sort of lump in one's throat especially through fear and that expression began at ancient times. Many years ago clean drinking water was not readily available and people drank water gathered from ponds or streams. A superstition and in some cases a genuine fear arose that accidentally swallowing the eggs of a frog would lead to tadpoles hatching in the stomach.
A tadpole would then form into a frog which would try to escape through the person's mouth producing a choking feeling as it did. The expression was then used figuratively in America by about the mid-1800s. To have a hunch means to have an intuitive or instinctive feeling and that expression takes its origins from gambling in the early 20th century in America. There's a century-old superstition that hunchbacks are possessed by the devil who gave them the power to foretell the future. Gambler's, a notoriously superstitious bunch, believed that rubbing the hump on a hunchback before placing a bet or playing a hand of cards would bring them good fortune. It is unknown whether this superstition was ever put to the test and if so whether it was successful but as a result to have a hunch came to mean what it does today. A special thanks to Greg for finding that piece and to Andrew Thompson for sharing the stories of these phrases and everyday sayings and the book is Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red and we love drilling down on well just storytelling about all kinds of things and well why not our language. Andrew Thompson's storytelling here on Our American Stories. How does a 65-inch Vizio 4K Smart TV with award-winning Quantum Color sound?
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