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Phrases - How Did They Originate?  

You might have often been intrigued by many  phrases. But ever wondered what was the tale behind their origin? I went on a searching spree and discovered some interesting origins of phrases, that you might never have thought of. So keep guessing while you read!

Raining Cats And Dogs

This means raining very heavily Though the origin is still controversial, some say that the abominable drainage system of buildings in the 15th century caused drains to run over, emitting out garbage and a few unanticipated rubbish. Thus, animals might have lived in the thatched roofs and when it rained heavily, the dead remains would fall! And maybe some even had some dead dogs and cats hit their heads, thus giving birth to the phrase. Anyways, this certainly is a strange way to describe the weather, eh?

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

It means to bet your last coin. This phrase may have originated in saloons of the American Wild West where poker players and other gamblers piled their prize/money in front of them as they played. The suggestion was to go ahead, bet the last of your money. Surprisingly, it was first noticed in the La Crosse Independent Republican, September 1856: "I'm goin' to vote for you [James Polk] - you can bet your bottom dollar on that!"

Pushing the envelope

It means to approach or exceed known performance boundaries. It is believed to have been originated from the USAF test pilot program. It meant flying an aircraft at or beyond its known routine restrictions or recommended limits.

Fit to be tied

It means being furious. This phrase originated when the practice of tying irrepressible and often hazardous people was followed.

Wing and a prayer

It refers to being hopeful but unlikely to succeed. It originated during the First World War, celebrating the return of an American Flyer who came back safely in spite of a badly injured wing.

Pass the buck

It refers to passing off responsibility to someone else. It originated from a game of cards. A marker known as a buck is used in card games to mark the player who is the existing dealer. When the buck is passed to the next player, the responsibility for dealing is passed.

Stink to high heaven

It means to have a very strong odor. This expression originated from the well-known Shakespearean play 'Hamlet'. From a dialogue uttered by Hamlet's Uncle, the King of Denmark - "O, my offense is rank, it smells to heaven; It hath the primal eldest curse upon it, A brother's murder."

Face the music

It refers to accepting the truth. It originated from the British Military practice of playing the drums when someone was court marshaled.

I have a bone to pick with you

Which means, I have an unpleasant matter to settle with you. It is believed to have originated when at the marriage banquets of the Sicilian poor, the bride's father, after the meal, used to hand the bridegroom a bone, saying, "Pick this bone, for you have taken in hand a much harder task." Another origin might be from the British where a bone to pick was a profitable appointment given to a difficult opponent in order to silence him. The reference is to throwing a bone to a dog to keep him from barking at you.

To read more origins of phrases, the best site I can suggest is "The Phrase Finder". Do read many more phrases and any more interesting information regarding their origins, is welcome. So all game to share your knowledge with me through comments? Any additions to the list are welcome!

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  1. sawan  

    thats an interesting read!

  2. Meghna  

    @ Sawan- Thanks :)

  3. peter  

    ahh cool :D

    i came across so many of them for the very 1st time \:D/

  4. Meghna  

    @ Peter- LOL! I guess 2 or 3 for me :)

  5. Kiran Sawhney  

    I found it interesting, the way they originated.

  6. Meghna  

    @ Kiran- Thanks :)
    I found them interesting too!

  7. Rushabhh Gandhi  

    This was interesting.........!!!

  8. Meghna  

    @ rushabhh- Thanks :P

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