THE ORIGINS OF COMMON SAYINGS
Added on: 20th May 2015
RUB THE WRONG WAY
Meaning: To irritate, bother, or annoy someone
History: In colonial America, servants were required to wet-rub
and dry-rub the oak-board floors each week. Doing it against
the grain caused streaks to form, making the wood look
awful and irritating the homeowner.
RULE OF THUMB
Meaning: A common, ubiquitous benchmark
History: Legend has it that 17th century English Judge Sir Francis
Buller ruled it was permissible for a husband to beat his wife
with a stick, given that the stick was no wider than his thumb.
Meaning: Go crazy
History: Comes from the Malaysian word amoq, which describes
the behaviour of tribesmen who, under the influence of opium,
became wild, rampaging mobs that attacked anybody in their path.
SAVED BY THE BELL
Meaning: Rescued from an unwanted situation
History: As scary as it sounds, being buried alive was once
a common occurrence. People who feared succumbing to such
a fate were buried in special coffins that connected to a bell above
ground. At night, guards listened for any bells in case they had to
dig up a living person and save them “by the bell.”
SHOW YOUR TRUE COLOURS
Meaning: To reveal one’s true nature
History: Warships used to fly multiple flags to confuse their enemies.
However, the rules of warfare stated that a ship had to hoist its true
flag before firing and hence, display its country’s true colours.
Meaning: Sleep well
History: During Shakespeare’s time, mattresses were secured on
bed frames by ropes. In order to make the bed firmer, one had
to pull the ropes to tighten the mattress.
SPILL THE BEANS
Meaning: To reveal a secret
History: In Ancient Greece, beans were used to vote for
candidates entering various organizations. One container for
each candidate was set out before the group members,
who would place a white bean in the container if they approved
of the candidate and a black bean if they did not. Sometimes a
clumsy voter would accidentally knock over the jar, revealing all
of the beans and allowing everyone to see the otherwise
WAKING UP ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE BED
Meaning: Waking up in a bad mood
History: The left side of the body or anything having to do with the
left was often associated considered sinister. To ward off evil,
innkeepers made sure the left side of the bed was pushed
against a wall, so guests had no other option but to get up
on the right side of the bed.