The surprising origins of popular sayings and idioms

Language is a living entity, constantly evolving and shaping itself through the ages.

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Language is a living entity, constantly evolving and shaping itself through the ages.

Within the vast tapestry of words and phrases, we find an array of curious sayings and idioms that have stood the test of time.

But have you ever wondered about the origins of these peculiar expressions? Let's take a journey back in time to discover the surprising stories behind some of our favorite sayings and idioms.


1) Cat Got Your Tongue

In ancient times, it was believed that witches could steal a person's ability to speak or reveal secrets, and they would often use black cats as their accomplices.

The saying "cat got your tongue" emerged as a humorous way to inquire why someone was unusually silent or hesitant.


2) Raining Cats and Dogs

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Although it sounds fantastical, the phrase "raining cats and dogs" has a less magical origin.

In the 17th century, heavy rainfall would flood the streets, causing dead animals to be swept up in the torrents, giving the impression that animals were falling from the sky.

3) Saved by the Bell

During the 17th and 18th centuries, fears of being buried alive led to the creation of safety coffins equipped with a bell that the "dead" person could ring if they woke up.

Being "saved by the bell" meant escaping a dire situation at the last moment.

4) Chew the Fat

Originating from the seafaring world, sailors would gather around to chew on a tough piece of fat, which was a cheap source of sustenance.

During these informal gatherings, they would share stories and exchange gossip, leading to the saying "chew the fat," now used to describe casual chatting.

5) Rule of Thumb

Contrary to a common misconception, this phrase doesn't have violent origins.

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Instead, it stems from an old English law that allowed husbands to discipline their wives using a stick as long as it was no thicker than the man's thumb.

Over time, it transformed into a term referring to a practical, approximate guideline.

6) Break the Ice

Back in the days of sailing ships, large chunks of ice would form in frozen waters, making it difficult for ships to move.

To help ships progress, smaller vessels called "icebreakers" were used to clear a path, allowing safe passage. Thus, "breaking the ice" evolved to signify starting a conversation to ease tension and initiate communication.

In conclusion, language is a treasure trove of history and cultural evolution.

The surprising origins of these popular sayings and idioms remind us that our words carry echoes of our past.

As we continue to use these expressions in our daily lives, let's take a moment to appreciate the fascinating stories behind them and how they have endured the test of time.

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