Where Did These Sayings Come From? Why do we say these things? Where did they come from? Did you ever stop to think what it is that you’re saying? Why you say it and where it came from? We have a list of sayings that explain some of these and how they came about.
The third degree
This saying, a saying commonly used for arduous interrogations. One theory relates to the various degrees of murder in the criminal code; another from Thomas F. Byrnes, most likely derived from the Freemasons, a fraternal organization whose members undergo rigorous questioning before becoming “third-degree” members.
Break the ice
Meaning: To break off a conflict or a friendship.- Origin: Back when road transportation was not developed, ships would be the only transportation and means of trade. Ships would get stuck during the winter because of ice. The receiving country would send small ships to clear a way for the trade ships.
Mad as a hatter
To be completely crazy – Its origins date from the 17th and 18th centuries. In 17th century France, poisoning occurred among hat makers who used mercury for the hat felt. The “Mad Hatter Disease” was marked by shyness, irritability, and tremors that would make the person appear mad.
Barking up the wrong tree
Meaning: To have misguided thoughts about a situation, a false lead – This refers to hunting dogs that may have chased their prey up a tree. The dog’s bark, assuming that the prey is still in the tree when in fact it is no longer there.
Turn a blind eye
Meaning: To ignore situations, or reality – The British Naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson, who had a blind eye. When the British forces signaled him to stop attacking a fleet of ships, he held up a telescope to his blind eye and said, “I don’t see the signal.” So he attacked and was victorious.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater
Meaning: Don’t get rid of the valuables along with the unnecessary things.-Origin: In the early 1500s, people only bathed once a year. They also bathed in the same water without changing it! The men would bath first, then the women, leaving the children and babies for last. The mothers had to take care that their babies were not thrown out with the bathwater.
Let one’s hair down
Meaning: To relax -: In public, women of medieval times were obliged to appear in elegant hair-dos usually pulled up. The only time they would “let their hair down” was when they came home and relaxed.
Modern English speakers use the phrase “crocodile tears” to describe a display of superficial sorrow, but the saying derives from a medieval belief that crocodiles shed tears of sadness while they killed and consumed their prey. Dates back as far as the 14th century.
Read the riot act
In 18th-century England, the Riot Act was a very real document, and it was often recited aloud to angry mobs. Instituted in 1715, the Riot Act gave the British government the authority to label any group of more than 12 people a threat to peace. a public official would read a small portion of the Riot Act and order the people to “disperse themselves, and peaceably depart to their habitations.” Anyone that remained was subject to arrest.
“Running amok” is used to describe erratic behavior, but the phrase is actually a medical term. The saying was popularized in the 18th century when European visitors to Malaysia learned of a mental affliction that caused normal tribesmen to go on brutal and random killing sprees. In 1772, the famed explorer Captain James Cook noted that “to run amok is to … sally forth from the house, kill the person supposed to have injured the Amock, and any other person that attempts to impede his passage.