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"Gung-ho & Cheesy Smile" and the Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions (Pt. 8)

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
January 3, 2024 3:03 am

"Gung-ho & Cheesy Smile" and the Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions (Pt. 8)

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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January 3, 2024 3:03 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, Andrew Thompson shares another slice of his guide to understanding the baffling mini-mysteries of the English language. The book is Hair of the Dog to Paint the Town Red: The Wonderful Origins of Everyday Expressions and Fun Phrases.

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See AT& slash iPhone for details about the guarantee trade-in promo for new and existing customers available for a limited time. Terms and restrictions apply. Abusers in Hollywood are as old as the Hollywood sign itself. Underneath it lies a shroud of mystery. From Variety, Hollywood's number one entertainment news source and I heart podcast, comes Variety Confidential.

I'm your host, Tracy Patton. And in season one, we'll focus on the secret history of the casting couch. So join us as we navigate the tangled web of Hollywood's secret history of sex, money and murder.

Subscribe now to Variety Confidential, wherever you get your podcasts. And 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 guide to understanding these many 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 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 colour to a person's complexion. In the 7th century, the Greek poet Sappho described a stricken lover as being green, but it was Shakespeare who popularised the expression in his 1603 play Othello when he wrote, Beware, my lord of jealousy, it 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 anglicised by General Evans Carlson who had spent time in China before the war. He adopted gung ho as a slogan for his US 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 hare of the dog is an expression which means an alcoholic drink intended to cure a hangover. And the expression is actually a contraction of the full expression the hare 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 hare, 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, the 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's 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's 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 hoarseness or a lump in one's throat, especially through fear. And that expression began in 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 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. Gamblers, 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. I'm your host, Tracy Patton, and in season one, we'll focus on the secret history of the casting couch.

So join us as we navigate the tangled web of Hollywood's secret history of sex, money, and murder. Subscribe now to Variety Confidential wherever you get your podcasts. As the number one audio company, iHeartMedia gives you access to all. Every audience, live conversations, trusted influencers, and the insights and data you need to grow. iHeartMedia is your access company. Go to for more.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-03 04:35:32 / 2024-01-03 04:40:28 / 5

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