I’m Just Curious: History of a few clichés

by Debbie Walker

You know I have purchased some rather unique books. Tonight I dug out The Dictionary of Clichés because I wanted to look up an old saying.

A couple of times recently I have caught myself saying “Between you and me and the fence post …” I looked it up and found it! It does read “between you and me and the bedpost/gatepost/four walls/lamppost.” It is the long version of “in strictest confidence”. It’s usually followed up with gossip!

“Add insult to injury” means to make harm worse by adding humiliation. The saying is traced all the way back to a Greek fable.

“Ass in a sling” – to be in deep trouble. The saying was common about 1930. The ass referred to is not the animal but the term for buttocks.

“In one fell swoop” – A single operation. Goes all the way back to Shakespeare. Vultures attacked chickens in “one fell swoop.”

“At one’s beck and call” – Required to tend to someone’s wishes. The word “beck” only lives on in this cliché. It meant a mute signal or gesture of command (nod of the head or pointing your finger).

“At the drop of a hat” – at once without delay. It comes from the dropping or waving a hat as a starting signal for a race, prize fight or other event.

“Bad penny always turns up” – unwanted or worthless object or person is sure to return. It’s written in several languages. It’s dated back to when pennies were maybe made of inferior metal.

“Baker’s Dozen”– Thirteen. There was a law passed in England in 1266. It specified exactly how much a loaf of bread should weigh and put a penalty for shorted weight. Bakers protected themselves by giving their customers 13 loaves.

“Bane of one’s existence”- One’s ruin or misery. The earliest meaning of the noun bane was “murderer.” Sometime later the meaning was “poison.” Now, dating back to 1500s, it means an agent of ruin.

“Barefaced liar”- a shamelessly bold untruth. It means bold-faced or brazen but it is believed in the 16th century it meant “beardless.”

I wanted to leave a little room here to add a little info about nail polish:

Don’t shake it to mix, roll the bottle between your palms. Shaking puts in air bubbles that can muck up your job.

There is a way to dry the nails quicker. Spray aerosol cooking spray to coat nails from about six inches. Wait a few minutes and rinse. Sally Hanson also has top coat called Insta-Dri. It is wonderful, I love it!

Dab nail polish on screws in eyeglasses to keep them secure.

OK I used up my words for the night. Hope all is well with you. I’m just curious what we’ll learn next! Contact me with comments or ideas at dwdaffy@yahoo.com sub: Next.


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