We use multifarious words and phrases in our day-to-day life in the context of different situations. What’s astonishing is, we don’t even know the origin of these phrases or why they ever came into being? Ever wondered about that? If yes, then you have come to the right place.
From the fear of having your bride stolen on your wedding day, to secret castle features, these phrases have some very interesting origin.
1. Best Man
Antediluvian days were rife with the possibility that a rival lord would try to steal your bride on the wedding day for political or other reasons. To be prepared for such a situation, the groom would often ask a friend with the best fighting skills to stand by his side during the marriage and help in defending his bride from possible kidnapping. Hence, the phrase Best Man came into existence. Since then, the man who was the best in the duel would be chosen.
2. Stool Pigeon
Back in the day, pigeons were considered a good source of food. Hunters used them for their own benefit, by taming them and tying them to a stool, so as to attract its wild brethren. Because the pigeon was tied to a stool, this phrase came to be used for anyone who used to sell out his friends.
3. Spill the Beans
We all are familiar with the modern voting methods. But, did you know that in ancient Greece, white and black beans were used to vote? Citizens had to cast their votes with their choice of the color of beans and drop it in a jar which would later, be counted by the officials. However, some clumsy voter knocked the jar over and revealed the beans and the result of the vote. Since then, the phrase has been used to refer to someone who reveals the truth or hidden secrets.
The origin of this phrase goes all the way back to the Middle Ages. It is related to the defensive architectural features of the castle. In older castles, at the top of the fortifications, designers would put up a small, oval window that was wider from the inside and narrower from the outside (also called a “murder-hole”). This made it difficult to attack the window from outside but much easier to fire arrows from the inside.
This opening was called a loophole. Now, it has become a method of escape.
5. Get The Sack
In today’s parlance, it means to get fired. Artisans in the 17th century, came to work with their own tools for the job, carried in a sack. When an employer wished to fire someone, he simply handed him his sack. This gesture implied the end of his employment.
This phrase has the same meaning even today. But, the sack has been replaced by a box.
6. Son of a Gun
The general idea behind this phrase can be traced back to the days of sailing ships when the wives of sailors sometimes accompanied their husbands on long ocean voyages. Privacy was not easy to find in ships and if a woman had to give delivery during the voyage, it would happen in the most secluded place available: between the cannons on the ship’s gun deck. The child’s birth would then be noted in the ship’s log as “a son of a gun.”
7. Let The Cat Out Of The Bag
This phrase dates back all the way to the Middle Ages. Unscrupulous vendors in the marketplace would sometimes substitute a cat when someone bought a piglet, putting the cat in a bag where its thrashing would look like the struggle of a pig. Once the buyer walked away, they would “let the cat out of the bag,” revealing the trickery.
According to old traditions, a newly married couple was compelled to drink a fermented honey beverage continuously for one month after the wedding. Basically from one full moon to the next one. This beverage would bring fertility and luck. This month of drinking and festivity was dubbed the “honeymoon.”
So, next time someone uses any of these phrases, you will know their original purpose.
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