You will never use these words in the same way again
English vocabulary consists of so many phrases that we now use in our day-to-day life. However not once would we have given a thought about how these phrases originated. And once you go down the lane and trace the origin of few of these phrases, you will be surprised and surely never see these phrases in the same light again. Here are few such phrases:
- Paying Through The Nose
Today it is used for something for which the price is exorbitant. It was originated in the 9th century when the Danish-Vikings imposed a census poll tax and would slit open the nose of those who couldn’t pay.
- Gone to Pot
The meaning of this phrase is deteriorated or decline. However the term originated in 17th Century when boiling someone to death (literally!) was a legal punishment. It was used for those who fell victim to cannibals and being their meal was the fate that awaited them.
- Skeleton in the closet
Today we use this phrase for the secrets from the past that are well-hidden. But a theory says that the phrase originated when it was found out that somewhere in 18th century doctors would illegally bring and hide skeletons in their closets. They would do this to carry out their experiments.
- Bite The Bullet
This phrase is today used while referring to accepting something unpleasant or difficult. However it originated from the time when doctors actually asked the patients to literally bite the bullets. This was done while the patients were given anesthesia or being operated. They would be asked to bite the bullet so that they would be distracted from the pain.
- To Butter Someone Up
We use this phrase when someone is being impressed with flattery. This term has been derived from an ancient religious act in India when the devotees would throw balls made out of butter at statues of Gods and Goddesses in order to seek forgiveness and favor.
- Saved by the bell
The phrase is commonly used when someone is freed from an unwanted or awkward situation. However this phrase has a really weird origin. “Safety coffins” were in use in 18th and 19th century. At that time, it was difficult to differentiate between the unconscious and the dead. Hence, these coffins came affixed with the chords that would be attached to the bell outside the grave. Thus in a situation where someone woke up and found themselves buried in the coffin, he would ring the bell attached to his coffin and the watchman would come dig him up.
- Cat got your tongue?
This question today is addressed to someone who doesn’t say a word and maintains baffling silence. The origin of the phrase has been linked with two stories. The first one goes back to Ancient Egypt where people who would be charged guilty of blasphemy would be punished by getting their tongues chopped off and fed to cats. The second one refers to the time where English Naval officers would use a whip that was called ‘The Cat-o-Nine tails’ which would be used to beat their victims speechless.