Monday, 21 May 2007

Ever wondered..............

Have you ever wondered where some of our well used expressions originated?

For instance why is the expression "Long in the tooth" used to describe old age?

Apparently, although this expression is mainly used about people it was orginally applied specifically to horses.

As horses get older, their gums recede so although their teeth aren't actually getting longer, they seem to be. Hence "long in the tooth".

There's another expression that arises from this. Since a horse's teeth (or, to be more accurate, gums) are an indication of its age, someone being given a free horse really has no right to start quibbling about its age. From this we get the saying 'never look a gift horse in the mouth'.

Ever wondered how "going off at half-cock" originated?

This came from the 17th century when to fully cock a flintlock musket was to prepare it for firing. The half-cock position was a 'safe' position to which the hammer or cock was drawn to permit access to the priming pan to charge and load the weapon. Pulling the trigger of a flintlock musket at half cock will not fire the weapon. In the heat of the battle, it was easy to forget to fully cock one's musket after loading it and go 'off half-cocked', with the result that nothing would happen.

How about "put one's back up"?

This comes from the action of a cat, which arches its back up when it is angry.

And putting the dampers on?

The analogy is said to be with music, specifically the piano. A damper is a part of a piano which, when applied, presses on the strings and cuts and deadens their sound. Hence hindering and discouraging the progress.

Have you ever "stuck your oar in"?

A shortened version of an expression that can be traced back almost 500 years and may even originate in Latin or Greek: "to have an oar in every man's boat" meant to have a hand in everybody's affairs.

What's your favourite expression? Don't know the meaning, you can look it up here.

My knee
Monday 21st May
No worse, no better.


"Early Bird" said...

What a neat site...thanks so much for sharing it!

steve said...

My favorite expressions are;
"You can lead a Horse to water, but you can't look him in the mouth"
"if you think you are not part of the problem, you are part of the problem"

Akelamalu said...

early bird
You're welcome hon.

Akelamalu said...

Did you make those up? :)

Sally Lomax said...

That's really interesting. I like the origins of sticking your oar in!

talj said...

Great post! :o)

Queenie said...


Akelamalu said...


Trust you!

Claire said...

Great post, you should do Thursday 13,this would go down well.

I could of done a more graphic song but restrained myself :D

Akelamalu said...

Thanks. I won't be able to use it for thursday 13 now I've given the link away! :(

I think the song was graphic enough honey! ;)

Anonymous said...


lettuce said...

how about having cake and eating it? i always liked that one...


Cream said...

"By hook or by crook" this post is "a feather in your cap", Akela.
But I am not stealing your thunder...

Linda said...

What a great post! It was the bees knees and fit for a queen!

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

very interesting! thanks...

smiles, bee

la bellina mammina said...

I like the one about having your cake and eating it too - I like "break a leg" too:-)

Akelamalu said...

I liked that one too, something I can be guilty of at times!

Glad you find it interesting.

Another good one, did you look it up?

What a wordsmith you are! :)

And you too!! :)

A mine of useless information, but fun!

la bellina mammina
I like cake! :)

Mark said...

I love this sort of thing, you can get a book called Red Herrings and White Elephants by Albert Jack, who gives the story behind all sorts of phrases.

Cheers Mark

Pearls of Wisdom said...

How interesting!
I love this butterfly LOL....


Angel ():)

Akelamalu said...

MWM would love that book so I will keep a look out for it, thanks.

Akelamalu said...

Glad you like my butterfly.:)

Claire said...

Grrr! i have to use Internet Explorer to vew your blog now, but your worth it :)

Akelamalu said...

Why is that? :(

Anonymous said...