Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

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Ketchup
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Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:39 am

Judy Parkinson, author of 'I Before E (Except After C)', has another book out, entitled 'Spilling the Beans on the Cat's Pyjamas'.

The pages of this book are filled with interesting facts, explanations and origins of expressions that we use every day. For those who, like myself, love delving into the origins and explanations of phrases and words that we use every day, starting off this thread with some examples from the book:
ALL TICKETY-BOO
There are many synonymous phrases for this enthusiastic statement that everything is 'fine and dandy'.

'Tickety-boo' may come from the word 'ticket', as in 'that's the ticket'. In the nineteenth century, charities issued tickets to the poor that could be exchange for soup, clothing and coal.

Other sources suggest that the phrase has its origins with the British Army in India, and that it may be an Anglicized version of the Hindi phrase tikai babu, which means 'it's all right, sir'.
ON THE NAIL
This is a very old phrase meaning to pay immediately or on the spot. Generally, it means 'now', 'at once', 'exactly' or 'dead on'.

In medieval times, a nail was a shallow vessel mounted on a post or stand and business deals were closed by payments placed in the 'nail'. It is said that if a buyer was satisfied with the sample of grain shown on the nail, he paid on the spot.

Outside the Bristol Corn Exchange, such nails can still be seen in the form of four bronze pillars.
TO RUN THE GAUNTLET
To be attacked on all sides or, in modern use, to be severely criticized or to try to extracate oneself from a situation while under attack on all sides.

The expression appeared in English at the time of the Thirty Years War (1618-48) as 'gantlope', meaning the passage between two files of soldiers. It is an amalgamation of the Swedish words galop (passageway), gata (way), and lop (course).

'Running the gauntlet' was a form of punishment said to have originated in Sweden amongst soldiers and sailors. The compan or crew, armed with whips, thongs or rods, were assembled in two facing rows, and the miscreant had to run the course between them, while each man dealt him as severe a blow as he thought befitted the misdemeanour.

Native Americans also had a similar, more brutal, form of retribution, because here the victim was not intended to survive the blows he suffered during his run.
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by chaggle » Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:39 pm

The Corn Exchange

Used to be a concert hall...
During the mid- to late 1960s the Exchange was a popular concert venue. British Beat groups including The Rolling Stones,The Yardbirds,Cream,The Pretty Things and Spencer Davis all played several times in the main hall. A regular Tuesday night club called The Bristol Chinese R'n'B and Jazz Club was also established which attracted American Blues singers including John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exchange,_Bristol
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:57 pm

chaggle wrote:The Corn Exchange

Used to be a concert hall...
During the mid- to late 1960s the Exchange was a popular concert venue. British Beat groups including The Rolling Stones,The Yardbirds,Cream,The Pretty Things and Spencer Davis all played several times in the main hall. A regular Tuesday night club called The Bristol Chinese R'n'B and Jazz Club was also established which attracted American Blues singers including John Lee Hooker, Sonny Boy Williamson and Little Walter.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Exchange,_Bristol
Sounds like THE place to be in the 60s! :thumb:

I have been to the Corn Exchange in King's Lynn, Norfolk. Medium Gordon Smith was doing a demonstration of mediumship there. :D
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Tony.Williams » Mon Feb 06, 2017 2:21 pm

Ketchup wrote: Medium Gordon Smith...
Are there Large and Small Gordon Smiths also?

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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Mon Feb 06, 2017 3:23 pm

Tony.Williams wrote:
Ketchup wrote: Medium Gordon Smith...
Are there Large and Small Gordon Smiths also?
:roll: Don't tell me ... you're the guy that started a career as a psychic, but gave it up. Couldn’t see any future in it. Image
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Wed Feb 08, 2017 11:02 pm

Some more titbits from The Cat's Pyjamas :
TO BITE THE BULLET
To undertake the most challenging part of a feat of endurance, to face danger with courage and fortitude, to behave stoically or to knuckle down to some difficult or unpleasant task.

The expression originated in field surgery before the use of anaesthetics. A surgeon about to operate on a wounded soldier would give him a bullet to bite on, both to distract him from the pain and to make him less likely to cry out.
TO BE GIVEN THE THIRD DEGREE
This is to be the object of detailed questioning to get to the bottom of an inquiry, whether it be criminal or general.

One possible source of the phrase is Free Masonry, where the third degree is the highest level of membership. Those wishing to be considered as Master Masons must sit an intensive exam with interrogatory-style questions.

In America, the term is applied to the use by the police of exhaustive questioning to extract a confession or incriminating information from a suspect, criminal, accomplice or witness.

'Third-degree treatment' is also used as a euphemism for torture.
TO GIVE SHORT SHRIFT
To treat someone peremptorily and unsympathetically, without heeding any mitigating arguments, or simply to make short work of something.

Shrift is defined as a confession to a priest. 'Short shrift' originally referred to the limited amount of time given to a convict between condemnation, confession and absolution, and then finally execution.
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Croydon13013 » Thu Feb 09, 2017 12:35 pm

BOB'S YOUR UNCLE

Croydon13013 has been sleeping with your Aunty Jane.

The expression originated on the Skeps forum. It is used as a euphemism for success and heroism.
thIS sIGnaTure iS an

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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Fri Feb 10, 2017 3:23 pm

Croydon13013 wrote:BOB'S YOUR UNCLE

Croydon13013 has been sleeping with your Aunty Jane.

The expression originated on the Skeps forum. It is used as a euphemism for success and heroism.
:lol:

Bob's your uncle is often followed by ... 'and Fanny's your aunt'. Which brings me to another widely-used phrase:
SWEET FANNY ADAMS
This expression is ambiguously used to mean either nothing at all, or sweet nothing. It has a very tragic origin.

In 1867, eight-year-old Fanny Adams was raped and murdered in a hop garden in Alton, Hampshire, and her dismembered body was thrown into the River Wey. A twenty-one-year-old solicitor's clerk, Frederick Baker, was tried soon after and hanged at Winchester.

The Royal Navy, with extreme black humour, adopted the poor girl's name as a synonym for tinned mutton, which was first isued at this time, and for a while stewed meat was known as Fanny Adams. 'Sweet Fanny Adams' became, as a consequence, a phrase for anything worthless, and subsequently to mean nothing at all.

The phrase is still used today, usually as just the initials 'SFA' or 'sweet FA', which happen to be the same as 'f**k all', from which most people, wrongly, think this expression is derived.


Now that I know where it comes from, I will never, ever use that expression again. :(


After further research, I found this: https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/c ... anny-adams
The true story of Sweet Fanny Adams
Few people who use the expression 'Sweet Fanny Adams' know of its origin. However there was a time when it would have been recognised instantly.

When the name Fanny Adams made sensational headlines, creating a wave of horror, revulsion and pity. Little Fanny Adams was brutally murdered on Saturday 24 August 1867. Nothing much ever happened to disturb the rural Hampshire community of Alton: certainly none of the inhabitants could recall a local murder during their lifetime. So Fanny's mother, Harriet Adams, probably thought it quite safe for three small children to wander off alone towards Flood Meadow, just 400 yards from their home in Tan House Lane.

The crime

Fanny and her friend, Minnie Warner, both eight years old, set off up the lane with Fanny's seven-year-old sister Lizzie and they were approached by a man dressed in black frock coat, light waistcoat and trousers. Despite his respectable appearance he had obviously been drinking, and the proposition he put to the children remains chillingly familiar to today's police officers. He offered Minnie three halfpence to go off and spend with Lizzie, while Fanny could have a halfpenny if she alone would accompany him up The Hollow, an old road leading to the nearby village of Shalden. Fanny took her halfpenny but refused to go with him, whereupon he picked her up and carried her into a nearby hopfield, out of sight of the other children. It was then almost 1.30pm.

At about five o'clock, having played together since Fanny's abduction, Minnie Warner and Lizzie Adams made their way home. Seeing them return, a neighbour, Mrs Gardiner, asked where Fanny was, then rushed to tell Mrs Adams when the children had explained what had happened. The anxious women hurried up the lane, where they met the same man coming from the direction of The Hollow.

Mrs Gardiner accosted him: "What have you done with the child?" "Nothing", he replied equably, maintaining this composure as he answered Mrs Gardiner's other questions. "Yes, he had given them money, but only to buy sweets which I often do to children", and Fanny, unharmed, had left him to rejoin the others. His air of respectability impressed the women and when he told them that he was a clerk of a local solicitor William Clement, they allowed him to leave.

However, at seven o'clock, with the child still missing, worried neighbours formed a search party. They found poor Fanny's dreadfully mutilated remains in the hopfield. It was a sickening scene of carnage. The child's severed head lay on two poles, deeply slashed from mouth to ear and across the left temple. Her right ear had been cut off. Most horribly, both eyes were missing. Nearby lay a leg and a thigh. A wider search revealed her dismembered torso: the entire contents of chest and pelvis had been torn out and scattered, with some internal organs even further slashed or mutilated. So savage was the butchery that other parts of her body were recovered only after extensive searches over several days. Her eyes were found in the River Wey.

On hearing of her daughters death, the distraught Mrs Adams ran to tell her husband (who was playing cricket on the Butts, South of the Town) then collapsed from grief and exhaustion. George Adams reacted to the news by returning home for his shotgun, and setting out for the hopfields in search of the murderer. Fortunately for both, neighbours disarmed him.

The perpetrator

Later that evening, Supt William Cheyney arrested the obvious suspect at his workplace, the solicitor's office in Alton High Street. "I know nothing about it," said 29-year-old Frederick Baker in the first of many protestations of innocence, before Cheyney escorted him through an angry crowd to Alton Police Station.

The wristbands of Baker's shirt and his trousers were spotted with blood. His boots, socks and trouser bottoms were wet. "That won't hang me, will it?" he said nonchalantly, explaining that it was his habit to step into the water when out walking. But he could not explain how his clothing came to be bloodstained. More evidence - two small knives, one of them stained with blood - came to light when he was searched. The suspect was locked away while Supt Cheyney checked on his movements that afternoon. Witnesses confirmed that he had left the solicitors office shortly after 1pm, returning at 3.25pm, he again went out until 5.30pm. Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Adams had seen him coming from the direction of the hopfield some time after 5pm: if, as seems likely, he had murdered Fanny Adams during his first absence, had he returned to commit further depredations on his victim's body?

Baker's fellow Clerk, Maurice Biddle, spoke of seeing him in the office at about six that evening, when he had described his meeting with Mrs Adams and Mrs Gardiner. Baker had seemed disturbed, "it will be very awkward for me if the child is murdered", he told Biddle. Later they went over to the Swan for a drink where the morose Baker said he might leave town on the following Monday. To his colleague's observation that perhaps he would have difficulty in finding a new job, Baker made the significant reply, "I could go as a butcher".

On the following Monday, whilst searching Baker's office desk, Cheyney found his diary. It contained a damning entry which the suspect admitted writing shortly before his arrest. "24th August, Saturday - killed a young girl. It was fine and hot". At his trial Baker maintained that this entry, written when he was drunk, simply meant that he was aware a girl had been murdered.

The Coroner

Meanwhile, a local painter William Walker had found a large stone in the hopfield, with blood, long hair and a small piece of flesh adhering to it.

Image

This, pronounced Dr Louis Leslie, the Alton divisional police surgeon, was probably the murder weapon; his post-mortem finding was that death had been caused by a crushing blow to Fanny's head.

Tuesday evening saw the inquest before Deputy County Coroner Robert Harfield at the Duke's Head Inn. After viewing the gruesome remains, hearing the evidence and the handcuffed prisoners reply when the coroner asked if he wished to say anything ("No Sir - only that I am innocent"), the jury returned a verdict "wilful murder against Frederick Baker for killing and slaying Fanny Adams". He was remanded to Winchester Prison to await the formal committal hearing.

This was held at Alton Town Hall on Thursday 29 August before local magistrates. Still protesting his innocence, the prisoner was committed for trial at the next County Assizes. A large crowd awaited his removal from the Town Hall and the Police were only able to protect him from the violence of the mob with great difficulty. Baker's trial opened at Winchester Assizes on 5 December.

Little Minnie Warner was carried into court to testify; the defence strongly challenged her identification of Baker and also claimed (perhaps correctly) that it was impossible for his small knives to have dismembered the unfortunate Fanny so thoroughly. But the defence case centred on Baker's mental state, a sad tale of hereditary insanity.

His father had "shown an inclination to assault even to kill, his children"; a cousin had been in asylums four times; brain fever had caused his sister's death; and he had attempted suicide after an abortive love affair.

Apparently unimpressed, the jury rejected Mr Justice Mellor's judicial advice that they might consider the prisoner irresponsible for his actions through insanity, possibly the inevitable verdict today.

After retiring for only 15 minutes the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Frederick Baker was hanged before a crowd of 5000, a large proportion of whom consisted of women, in front of Winchester's County Prison at 8am on Christmas Eve, 1867.

Following the execution it became known that Baker had written to the parents of the murdered child to express deep sorrow over the crime that he had committed "in an unguarded hour and not with malice aforethought". He earnestly sought their forgiveness adding that he was "enraged at her crying, but it was done without any pain or struggle". The prisoner denied most emphatically that he had violated the child, or had attempted to do so.

Poor Fanny's headstone which was erected by Public subscription and renovated a few years ago, is pictured here with her younger sister and Minnie Warner, and still stands in the town cemetery on the Old Odiham Road. It might have been our only reminder of the tragic affair had it not been for the macabre humour of British Sailors.

Served with tins of mutton as the latest shipboard convenience food in 1869, they gloomily declared that their butchered contents must surely be 'Sweet Fanny Adams'. Gradually accepted throughout the armed services as a euphemism for 'sweet nothing' it passed into common usage.

As an aside, the large tins in which the meat was packed for the royal navy, were often used as mess tins and it appears that even today mess tins are colloquially known as 'fannys'.
Image Image
Image
The Fanny Adams sampler reads:
The Alton Murder
The inhabitants of Alton have subscribed funds for the neat headstone to the grave of the girl Fanny Adams who was so brutally murdered by Frederick Baker. The headstone has been placed in the cemetery and bears the following inscription.
' Sacred to the memory of Fanny Adams aged 8 years and 4 months who was cruelly murdered August 24th, 1867'.
Fear not them which kill the body, but rather fear Him who is able to kill both body and soul in hell.'
Hundreds of persons have visited the cemetery". Emma Robinson 1874

The colours of the silks on the back are greens and reds and blues and yellows but these have considerably faded on the front. It is all done in cross stitch, with some additional threads laid diagonally on one feature in the top right corner.
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by chaggle » Fri Feb 10, 2017 5:01 pm

What a dreadful story!

Luckily I never use that phrase - I just go straight for 'f**k all'.
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Here's mud in your eye!

Post by Ketchup » Sun Feb 12, 2017 1:43 pm

HERE'S MUD IN YOUR EYE!
A drinking toast, the sentiments of which could be read either way. One interpretation is that it is to wish good fortune, as it was used in the trenches of the First World War when soldiers would naturally rather mud was thrown in their eye than anything more lethal.

Another, somewhat less good-natured, theory comes from horse racing, in which, with one's own horse out in front, it will be kicking mud into the eyes of the slower runners behind.

The phrase itself is thought to originate from a Bible story - featured in chapter nine of the Gospel of St John - when Jesus puts mud in the eyes of a blind man and restores his sight.
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Tony.Williams » Sun Feb 12, 2017 2:39 pm

The phrase itself is thought to originate from a Bible story - featured in chapter nine of the Gospel of St John - when Jesus puts mud in the eyes of a blind man and restores his sight.
Wow - this will surely have fundamentalist Christians who are also ACM enthusiasts wetting themselves in excitement.

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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Sun Feb 12, 2017 5:16 pm

Tony.Williams wrote:Wow - this will surely have fundamentalist Christians who are also ACM enthusiasts wetting themselves in excitement.
:sh "ACM enthusiasts"? Had to look it up, but no further on, having waded through all 29 pages! What does the acronym ACM stand for?

Australian College of Midwives? Abstract Communication Model? :?

The nearest related explanation I could find was Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy ?? :ro
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by chaggle » Sun Feb 12, 2017 7:35 pm

Ketchup wrote:
Tony.Williams wrote:Wow - this will surely have fundamentalist Christians who are also ACM enthusiasts wetting themselves in excitement.
:sh "ACM enthusiasts"? Had to look it up, but no further on, having waded through all 29 pages! What does the acronym ACM stand for?

Australian College of Midwives? Abstract Communication Model? :?

The nearest related explanation I could find was Alcoholic Cardiomyopathy ?? :ro
I did wonder but then thought maybe CAM. :y
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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Tony.Williams » Mon Feb 13, 2017 8:50 am

Ketchup wrote:
Tony.Williams wrote:Wow - this will surely have fundamentalist Christians who are also ACM enthusiasts wetting themselves in excitement.
:sh "ACM enthusiasts"? Had to look it up, but no further on, having waded through all 29 pages!
My mistake - I was thinking of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, but obviously suffered from brain fade...

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Re: Popular Expressions - origins and explanations

Post by Ketchup » Wed Feb 15, 2017 6:56 pm

BREAK A LEG!
The theatre is notoriously superstitious, and among actors it is deemed bad luck to wish a colleague 'good luck' before going on stage. Instead, this phrase - a traditional, if somewhat black, euphemism - is employed to wish someone luck in a performance, especially on opening night.

There are a number of possible sources for the expression and the earliest recorded use is in fact German; Luftwaffe pilots in the Second World War would send each other off to fight with the cheery saying 'Hals und Beinbruch', meaning 'break your neck and leg'.

The phrase was also used in English around this time to mean 'make a strenuous effort', so it may have simply been an instruction to put on the best show you possibly could.
A more fanciful explanation is that the saying came from the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (1809-65) in his private box at Ford's Theatre, Washington, DC, on 14 April 1865.

The murderer, John Wilkes Booth (1838-65), a reputable Shakespearean actor, escaped after firing the shot by leaping down on to the stage, breaking his leg in the process.
NO ROOM TO SWING A CAT
A commonly used description for a restricted or cramped space.
There are various suggested origins for this phrase, 'cat' was an abbreviation for 'cat-o-nine-tails', a whip of nine knotted lashes or 'tails', which from the eighteenth century was used in the army and navy, as well as on criminals in gaol, and was not formally banned in England as an instrument of punishment until 1948. Since space was restricted on sailing ships, whippings were carried out on deck, as there was 'no room to swing a cat' elsewhere on board.

However, while this may seem the most likely origin, 'cat' is also an old Scottish word for a rogue, and if the expression derives from this, the swing is that of the condemned criminal hanging from the gallows.

Equally, suspending live cats in leather sacks and then swinging the sacks as moving targets for archers :evil: was once a popular, if barbaric, amusement, and this too has been suggested as a source for the phrase.
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