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"Dark Horse & Dead Ringer" and the Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
February 7, 2023 3:01 am

"Dark Horse & Dead Ringer" and the Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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February 7, 2023 3:01 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, here again with his reoccurring 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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Say free this week into your Xfinity voice remote. And we continue with Our American Stories. And now it's time for our recurring series with author Andrew Thompson. His book is Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red, The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases.

He continues here to share another slice from his ultimate guide to understanding these baffling mini mysteries of the English language. A dark horse is a competitor that is unknown or wins unexpectedly and that expression originated with the writer Benjamin Disraeli who was also a 19th century British politician who became Prime Minister twice. In his 1831 novel The Young Duke he describes a horse race where two favorites are beaten by a rank outsider which is described as a dark horse which had never been thought of rushed past the grandstand in sweeping triumph.

It was common in the racing industry at the time for owners to conceal their fastest horses until the day of the race and because of Disraeli's book they became known as dark horses. A dead end is an expression which means an impasse or allowing no progress and whilst many may think it relates to the dead end of an alley it actually relates to the English game of lawn bowls which has been played for centuries. In bowling an end is one stage of a game where all players have bowled towards the jack which is the small white target ball. If the jack is driven out of the playing area by one of the player's balls the end cannot be continued and must be replayed it is considered a dead end. If someone calls you a dead ringer it means that you very closely resemble another person and while the origins of that expression are very disputed some cite horse racing it actually has a perverse beginning in the comas of medieval Britain. Now comas at the time were not fully understood by the medical profession and anyone not showing signs of life was presumed to be dead but on some occasions when bodies were later exhumed evidence was found suggesting that the person had been buried alive the fingernails were worn down and there were scratches on the roof of the coffin. To combat this people started putting a rod into the ground with a bell at the top and a string around the dead person's wrist. That way if a person came back to life so to speak they could ring the bell and attract attention to themselves.

This actually did occur from time to time and if the person was later seen in public and anyone suggested a likeness to the person they used to know it was said that they were a dead ringer. The die is cast means that something is past the point of no return and it's an expression that originated in ancient Greece and Rome in around 300 BC but the expression was actually made famous by Julius Caesar in 49 BC when he said let the die be cast as he led his army across the Rubicon River into Rome which committed them to a civil war and in fact that's where the expression past the Rubicon has come from meaning you've passed the point of no return. A die-hard supporter is one who stubbornly resists change despite a hopeless cause or supports a team no matter what and that phrase has military origins and comes from a battle during the peninsula war in 1811. During that battle the commanding officer of the 57th West Middlesex Regiment of Foot William Inglis was badly wounded and lay injured on the battlefield. The English were vastly outnumbered by the French at the time and were under attack. Despite this Inglis refused all attempts to carry him to safety and instead shouted at his men die hard 57th die hard. The English ended up winning the battle and from then on that regiment was known as the diehards.

The phrase diehard supporter then crossed into politics in the early 1900s to describe anyone who stood staunchly by a cause or a colleague. A dog day afternoon is a very hot afternoon that makes a person lazy and it owes its origins to ancient Roman astronomy. The Romans called the days between July 3 and August 11 the dog days and this is when Sirius the dog star rises and sets in line with the sun in the northern hemisphere.

These were usually the hottest days of the year and the Romans believed that this was caused by the combined heat of the dog star and the sun. If someone says don't look a gift horse in the mouth what they're meaning is not to be critical or ungrateful for a gift and that expression derives from race horses and horses generally. When buying a horse there are very few ways of assessing a horse's age and it's a risk to buy a race horse that's past its prime or a work horse that's old.

The most reliable way of determining a horse's age is from its teeth as a horse ages its teeth wear down and they also protrude forward and its gums recede. If a horse is given to you it was thought to be rude to look that gift horse in the mouth because this suggested you're assessing its value and in fact this is where the expression straight from the horse's mouth to describe first-hand information comes from as well as does the saying long in the tooth to mean that someone is old. Down to the wire means until the last possible moment and its expression has its origins with horse racing. Before camera technology existed to determine the winner of a close run race a string was stretched across the finish line to assist the judges to see who crossed first. The string was called a wire and whoever broke it first was the winner.

An evenly run race was said to go down to the wire. This was also used in foot races and the expression was used figuratively by the early 1900s. The expression your ears are burning means that someone is talking about you somewhere and this idiom originated with ancient Rome. The Romans were very superstitious and believed that different feelings in the body were signs of current or future events. It was said that a tingling ringing or burning feeling in the ears meant that someone was talking about you. The philosopher Pliny the Elder wrote about this in his book Naturalis Historia in AD 77 when he said it is acknowledged that the absent feel a pre-sentiment of remarks about themselves by the ringing of the ears. The Romans also believed that everything on the left signified evil and everything on the right signified good.

So it was thought that if the left ear was burning the speakers had malicious intent but if the right ear was burning the person was being praised. To eat humble pie means to act submissively in admitting an error often in humiliation and it's got rather distasteful culinary origins. In medieval feasts there was a hierarchy with the food. The lord of the manor and his guests from the upper echelon of society would serve the finest cuts of meat usually venison while the reviled offals and entrails known as umbels would be baked in a pie. Lower class people or people who are out of favor with the lord of the manor would be served this humble pie.

They were often humiliated when their plate arrived and they realized what they were eating. This expression eventually came to be known as humble pie. To egg on means to encourage or urge someone usually to do something foolish and it's got linguistic origins. Originally to edge on it derives from the old Norse word egge meaning to edge or to incite.

To edgen or edge someone was to encourage them. The expression then adapted to egg on by the 1500s and has been used in that sense since that time. The 11th hour means the latest possible time or the last minute and that expression has biblical origins. In the book of Matthew there's a reference that reads and about the 11th hour he went out and found others standing idle and said unto them why stand ye here all day idle. At that time the working day for manual laborers was 12 hours.

In a last-ditch attempt to finish the day's scheduled work on time workers were sometimes hired at the 11th hour of the day and because of the urgency they were paid the same amount as if they'd worked the full day so the 11th hour came to mean the last possible minute. To enter the lion's den means to enter a hostile or dangerous place or situation and it has biblical origins as well. It's from the story of Daniel in the lion's den from the old testament and in that story Daniel is betrayed and sentenced to death for publicly praying to his own god. While he was a friend of Daniel's the king has no choice but to condemn Daniel to death and he threw him into the lion's den. The king said to Daniel may your god whom you serve continually rescue you. At daybreak the king hurried back to see if god had saved his friend. Daniel remained there unscathed and said that god had sent an angel to close the jaws of the lions.

The king then cast those who conspired against Daniel into the lion's den. And great job as always to Greg Hengler for producing the piece and for finding the book and a special thanks to Andrew Thompson author of Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red The Curious Origins of Everyday Sayings and Fun Phrases here on Our American Story. is there for you when it really matters like when your bed is a bit cold on cupid's day. So skip the wilting bouquets and chalky candies settle in snuggle up and give yourself the gift of a great night when you search HUD app on your app store that's HUD app. 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 vacate girls night out bachelorette party wedding or date night create an account at and use code lulus fan 20 to save 20 off your first order that's lulus fan 20 terms and conditions apply see for details when focus takes hold and distractions fade away meet remarkable the paper tablet specially designed for tasks that demand focus take notes draft and organize remarkable is a digital notebook with the feel of paper and zero interruptions all of your notes and documents perfectly organized and in one place it's everything you love about paper but for the digital age visit today remarkable the paper tablet
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-07 04:24:09 / 2023-02-07 04:29:07 / 5

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