I am always interested in the minutia of life. I enjoy the little facts and the way things have come to be (a bit of a historian). I was watching a program called Kentucky Life from KET. I learned something new (not surprising) and it got me thinking of all the colloquialisms we use in our everyday speech. I thought I would provide the origins for some of these expressions.
Mind your Ps and Qs
I am sure you remember hearing about the days before computers. This expression originates with the printing press (that’s before typewriters). The typesetter would have to select each individual letter, construct the sentences in mirror image (reversed & backwards). The lowercase letters P and Q looked very similar. It would be important that the typesetter mind his/her Ps and Qs so they would not confuse them.
Yanking my chain
A story about miners provided a little insight to this phrase. The narrator explained that the bathroom (WC for the brits) in the coal mines was on a rail car. Each miner had a length of chain that they would use to chock the wheel of the rail car (to prevent the car from rolling away whilst they were in deposed) . The narrator stated that you wouldn’t want some one to “yank your chain” while it was in use.
Copy a Run
The esteemed fire chief of Lewisville, TX (Chief Richard Laskey) provided an answer to this says used in emergency services. Back in the days before fire alarm boxes, engines and telephones fire departments would have runners that would carry messages between stations and administration. The runners were usually young boys who would also alert the local fire stations of an alarm. I believe the runners would also go ahead of the steamers & horse drawn carriages to help locate the fire.
Break a Leg
Quite the odd expression to wish someone good luck. There are many explanations for this idiom. The most widely used comes from Theatre. When an actor or actress bows or courtesy they “break the line” of their leg. Romans would wish the gladiators “quasso cruris” the Latin equivalent to break a leg. This was to wish that the gladiator to keep his health and break another opponent’s leg.
High on the Hog
Whenever you hear that someone is living “High on the Hog” it means they are in the upper class of society. The best cuts of meat on the pig are on the back and the upper legs. The wealthy would always get the best cuts of meat. The lower class had to eat pork bellies.
In the days of flint lock muskets and rifles, the hammer that held the flint had two positions. The first, or half cock, was used to load the priming charge (the gun powder that ignited the charge in the barrel). To properly fire the weapon you had to pull the hammer all the way back (Full cock). You wouldn’t want your gun going off at half cock and ruin the priming charge.
What are your favorite odd expressions?