There are plenty of common phrases today that most people don’t know where they came from. To people in other places, who speak other languages, some of these phrases can sound absurd. If you have ever wondered where these phrases came from, you are about to find out. Here are the unusual origins of common phrases.
It’s Not Over Til the Fat Lady Sings
This phrase has been commonly used for the last 100 years. Many people think that it originated in reference to the Philadelphia Flyers and Kate Smith. This isn’t the case. It first reached mainstream ears back in 1976 when NBA coach Dick Motta said, “The opera ain’t over til the fat lady sings.”
Let the Cat Out Of the Bag
To let the cat out of the bag means to tell a secret. The phrase originated back in the 1700s. Back then, it was common for tricksters to put street cats in bags and sell them to unsuspecting victims who thought they were buying pigs. The victims of the ruse wouldn’t realize that they had been tricked until the cat jumped out of the bag.
Brand Spankin’ New
Most people think that the phrase, brand spanking new came from babies being spanked on the butt by the doctor when they are born. This isn’t the case. It was first used in 1860, and the original phrase was “brand span new.” Eventually, the span was changed to spankin’.
The Upper Crust
Some people believe that the upper crust came from Medieval times when only the wealthy could afford the upper crust of a loaf of bread. This isn’t the case. The term actually dates back to 1823, and it had to do with a person’s hat. Only the wealthiest people could afford fancy hats, which were known as the upper crust.
Toe The Line
To toe, the line means to follow the rules when you are considering breaking them. Many people think that the reference came from boating or fishing. The phrase became popular in 1813, and the literal meaning is to place your feet on a designated line before a race. It also has a reference to the military when soldiers are encouraged to do their duty.
When a person is said to be waiting with bated breath, it means that they can’t wait for something to happen. The phrase first appeared in William Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice. In the play, he changed the word from abated to bated, which means reduced or lowered in force. While bated has fallen out of the language style, bated breath is still a commonly used phrase.
Kangaroo court is a way of saying that something is unfair or unjust. Since kangaroos live in Australia, people think that the phrase started there. It actually started in North America, and it referenced an unpredictable or wild trial. Since kangaroos can be unpredictable and wild in American’s eyes, people used “kangaroo” in the phrase back in 1849. The phrase stuck, and it is still used today.
Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bath Water
You may have heard your grandmother use this saying, and some people believe that it is a warning to keep your baby from falling from the tub. The expression was actually made up in 1512 bu a satirist named Thomas Murner. The phrase means always to watch your valuables, and since babies are the most valuable thing that parents have, it makes sense.
It’s All Greek To Me
This is a phrase that people use when they don’t understand what they are hearing or reading. Many people think that William Shakespeare coined the phrase in Bard. This isn’t the case. It actually comes from a Medieval Latin proverb, and it means that something is illegible. Today, it is still a very popular phrase.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Mother Goose has an adorable nursery rhyme that goes, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockleshells and pretty maids all in a row.” When you hear this nursery rhyme, you think of a woman named Mary, working on her garden. Unfortunately, it has a much more disturbing and sinister meaning. Many I of England, was known as Bloody Mary. She was given this gruesome nickname due to her ruthless persecution of Protestants. In the rhyme, silver bells and cockleshells aren’t types of flowers; they are instruments of torture.
Mary was also referenced in Three Blind Mice. The farmer’s wife, who cut off the mice’s tails with a carving knife, was also Mary I of England.
These nursery rhymes may be popular with young children, but the stories behind them are horrible.