Say What?

Have you ever stopped to wonder where certain phrases started?  Some of the most common phrases have pretty dark origins.

Caught red handed

red handed

This originates from an old law regarding butchering. The law stated it was illegal to butcher an animal that was not yours. The only way to prove the crime was to catch the butcher with blood on his hands.

Crocodile tears

Ancient fables told of crocodiles who would cry like a person to lure people in to be eaten. Then after eating them would shed tears of grief for their victim.

Mad as a hatter

Mercury was once used in manufacturing felt hats. Unfortunately for the hatter working with the felt, mercury poisoning leads to madness.

Cat got your tongue

There are a couple of theories about where this saying originated. One is that ancient kings used to cut out the tongues of those who spoke against them and feed it to their cats.  Some say it was the tongue of blasphemers that received this punishment. Another theory is that the phrase started with witch hunting.  Some people believed that a witches feline familiar could take a persons tongue to keep the witches secret safe.

Over a barrel

I used to think this had something to do with laying on ones stomach over the side of a large wine casket like barrel.  The person would be in a very difficult and uncomfortable position. I was wrong.  In reality the phrase came from the Spanish Inquisition when people were tortured by being hung over a barrel of boiling oil.  If the demands of the inquisitor were not met the victim was dropped into the oil.

Speak of the devil

First recorded use in 1666 it comes from a superstition that if one spoke about the devil he would appear at your side. Now it just referee to anyone you mention showing up while you are talking about them.  Both cases could be bad luck depending on how much was heard the person who just showed up.

Throw the baby out with the bath water

In the early 1500’s people only bathed once a year.  As gross as that is, it only gets worse. The whole family would share the same bath water in a specific order. The father would bathe first, followed by the mother and then the children in descending order by age. The very last, when the bath water was dark with filth, would be the baby.  The filth would be so dark that the baby could have been lost and thrown out with the water.  However I can’t imagine anyone actually losing track of their baby for even a second, especially in the bath.

Pleased as punch

A 17th century puppet show called Punch and Judy featured a psychopathic killer puppet named Punch.  Punch was always very pleased after killing people. Thus when someone is very happy it is said they are pleased as Punch….did I mention this was a puppet show for children?  Yikes.






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