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"Bless You" and the Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions (Pt. 6)

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 23, 2023 3:05 am

"Bless You" and the Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions (Pt. 6)

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 23, 2023 3:05 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Andrew Thompson, the author of Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases continues to share another slice from his ultimate guide to understanding these baffiling mini mysteries of the English language.

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Learn more about the science behind the weight loss at This is Our American Stories, and we tell stories about just about everything. And here to tell those stories is Andrew Thompson, author of Hair of the Dog, To Paint the Town Red, The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings, and Fun Phrases.

Take it away, Andrew. To beat a hasty retreat means to withdraw or leave quickly, and it has military origins. It began from the battlefields of the 16th century when an army would have a marching band and there'd be a drummer who'd take orders from the commanding officer who he'd be stationed next to. There was a series of orders that the troops knew, and the drummer boy would beat them out, and then they would hear them and act accordingly. One of the drum beats was known as the retreat. And at sunset, when the rules of engagement dictated that fighting would cease, soldiers would return to camp, and the drummer would beat the retreat, and the troops would return. In cases where the battle wasn't going well and the army was losing, the drummer would beat the retreat faster to indicate an urgency to withdraw. To beat around the bush means to avoid coming to the point, and it's a phrase that began in hunting in medieval times. Back then, wealthy noblemen would hunt for pleasure, but they didn't want to put themselves at risk, so they'd employ men to help them. The men's job was to flush out animals from within the brush so that the noblemen could shoot them.

Often the men were sent in to scare out the animals, but when there were dangerous animals hiding such as wild boar, they would beat around the bush, hitting it with a stick to make a lot of noise, in the hope that they would scare out the animals, but not actually endanger themselves. The bee's knees is something that is excellent, or of the highest quality. And the origins of that phrase relates to how bees carry pollen from their hives.

Once the bee has extracted the pollen from the flower, it carefully places it into sacks on the rear of its legs. Many believe that's where the expression came from, from the rich and concentrated pollen found around the bee's knees. The phrase was first used in America in the 1920s, and at that time it was fashionable to use meaningless animal-inspired expressions to mean excellence.

There was a lot of them. There was the cat's pyjamas, the snake's hips, the monkey's eyebrows, the eel's ankles, and the bee's knees. Below the belt is an expression that has its origins in boxing. The London prize ring rules were drafted in 1743 by a boxer named Jack Broughton. They included not hitting a man when he was down and not hitting any part below the waist. The rules were then updated to the Queensbury rules of boxing in 1867, which was a formal code to put it into dangerous fighting techniques.

One of the rules was, and I quote, not to hit an opponent below the level of his trouser belt, and below the belt soon came to be used figuratively to mean any unfair tactic. The best things in sliced bread means an excellent new idea or invention, and it won't surprise you to learn that it came from the bread business. Otto Frederick Road-Weeder of Iowa invented the first bread slicing machine in 1928, and it was first used by a company in Missouri with a product called Clean Made Sliced Bread, and it was advertised in the local newspaper as the greatest forward step in the baking industry since bread was wrapped.

The bread was an instant success, and other bakeries started using the machine, which was advertised heavily, and the sliced bread became a talking point throughout the country and developed into the popular expression that is used today. Between the devil and the deep blue sea, which means between two undesirable alternatives, is one of many expressions that has nautical origins and one that you would never guess unless you knew a lot about boating. It derives from the traditional wooden sailing boats. Sailors use hot tar to seal or cork the seams between the planks to prevent leaking. The seam between the two topmost planks was known as the devil seam.

It was the longest seam and the closest to the water, so it needed regular sealing. This meant a sailor had to stand on the very edge of the deck or even be suspended over the side, so if there was a sudden gust of wind or a large swell, the sailor could get knocked over the edge and find himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. Between you, me and the lamppost, which means a secret between two people, is one of many expressions that came from the 19th century British writer Charles Dickens. It was in his 1838 book Nicholas Nickleby where the expression was first used. Big brother is watching, which means your actions being monitored by the authorities, is an expression that came from the literary world. A lot of people these days, young people, probably think it's from the popular reality television show, but it's actually from George Orwell's 1949 book called 1984. At the time of writing it was set in the future and the leader of the totalitarian state in the book, where every citizen's every movement is continually under surveillance by the government, is known as big brother.

Tele screens were used to monitor the people who were reminded of the slogan big brother is watching you by it being on constant display. The bigger they are the harder they fall is another expression that owes its origins to the world of boxing. Bob Fitzsimmons was a British heavyweight boxer and he coined the phrase. In 1900 he fought Ed Dunkhorst in Brooklyn in New York.

Known as the human freight car, Dunkhorst was a giant of a man and weighed nearly 400 pounds. Fitzsimmons was not all that big for a heavyweight and when he walked into the ring and saw his opponent all he could say was, the bigger they are the harder they fall. And Fitzsimmons won the fight by knockout, spawning the expression. To bite the bullet means to bear up in a difficult situation and carry on and it has military origins. Many actually think it comes from the American Civil War when in the absence of anaesthesia during surgery a soldier would bite down on a piece of lead bullet to keep themselves from screaming. But the real origin is earlier than that it's from the Indian rebellion of 1857. Gun cartridges at the time came in two parts and to load the bullets the two parts had to be broken apart and then the base filled with gunpowder. The Indian soldiers were forced to bite the bullets and separate the two parts and they had to do this despite the fact that they had to bite into grease made from pigs which was around the projectile.

Pigs being an animal which they considered sacred. The bitter end means the absolute end and it's another phrase that has a nautical origin. Centuries ago the anchors of sailing ships were fixed to the decks by solid posts.

Those posts were known as bits. The sailor tied a coloured cloth to the end of the anchor rope near the bit so that when the cloth was reached the men knew that they couldn't let out any more anchor. The small area of rope between the cloth and the bit was called the bit end which then became known as the bitter end.

So when the rope was let out to the bitter end it meant there was no more rope and the water was too deep. The raised black market began in medieval England. At the time there were nomadic mercenaries who travelled around selling their fighting skills to the highest bidder usually noblemen who were raising armies.

These men lived solitary lives in the wilderness and their armour was rarely polished and would oxidise into a blackish colour. As a result they became known as the black knights and for sport the black knights would sometimes compete in jousting matches at country festivals and the winner would win his opponent's armour and weapons but rather than carry around two sets of armour the black knights would sell their spoils back to the loser who would buy it at a cut rate price and this aftermarket became known as the black market. To be blackballed means to be ousted or voted against and it derives from London's gentlemen's clubs of the 18th century. New applications were assessed by a ruling committee and then put to members for a secret vote and every existing member of the club had to vote and the votes were cast by placing either a white or a black ball into a container. White balls meant acceptance into the club, black balls meant rejection.

One single black ball was enough for the application to fail and nobody ever knew which members were in opposition. To say bless you after someone sneezes is a phrase that has religious origins. In medieval times it was believed that a sneeze would thrust a person's soul from the body so god bless you was said to protect the unguarded soul from the devil until the person's body regained it. Another school of thought at the time was that a sneeze was the expulsion of an evil spirit from the body so the person was blessed in the hope that the evil spirit would not return. The expression became widespread during the great plague of London in 1665.

Sneezing was thought to be a symptom of the black death so god bless you was said to try to ward off the disease. A blonde bombshell is a good-looking woman with blonde hair, often a film actress. A lot of people think this expression originated with Marilyn Monroe but it was actually the 1930s with a Hollywood actress named Jean Harlow who was highly popular and had platinum blonde hair.

In 1933 she was the lead in a Hollywood film actually called Bombshell and the advertising for the film was lovely luscious exotic Jean Harlow as the blonde bombshell of filmdom. By the 1950s in America the expression was commonplace. The expression blood sweat and tears which means hard work and effort in difficult conditions originated from John Donne's 1611 poem An Anatomy of the World but it was Winston Churchill the British Prime Minister and great orator that brought the phrase to the people in a speech to Parliament in England in 1940. When speaking of the hardships to come in World War II he said I've nothing to offer but blood toil tears and sweat.

And you're listening to Andrew Thompson and great job on that as always by Greg Hengler and Andrew is the author of Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red the Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings here on Our American Stories. Spring is here and it's time to spice up your look at Lulu's your one stop shop for affordable high quality fierce looks. Lulu's carries dresses, jumpsuits, sweaters, shoes, two piece sets, tops, bottoms, accessories and more. Find your new hot look for spring break, vacay, girls night out, bachelorette party, wedding or date night. Create an account at Lulu' and use code Lulu's Fan 20 to save 20% off your first order.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-23 04:51:30 / 2023-01-23 04:57:20 / 6

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