The origins of expressions and phrases used every day are not given much thought. Haven’t you ever wondered how the English-speaking world came to use these phrases?
Here are the histories of just a few common phrases.
“Blood is thicker than water”
Although this phrase implies the importance of familial bonds, the original phrase was actually “The blood of the covenant is far stronger than the water of the womb.” It has been suggested that the nobility changed the phrase to emphasize the importance of bloodlines.
“Cat got your tongue”
When a witty comeback fails to enter your mind, your loss of words are compared to a cat getting your tongue. According to author, Albert Jack, “having your tongue cut out and fed to cats was the punishment for liars during medieval times. Because ancient Egyptian cats were considered gods, this act was seen as a human offering to the gods.”
“To bite the dust”
We’ve all heard Queen’s hit “Another One Bites the Dust,” but did Queen know where the phrase came from? Interestingly enough, this phrase dates back 850 years before the Bible. In Homer’s The Iliad, soldiers, fighting in the Trojan War, are described dying with their faces in the dirt as if they were ‘biting the dust’.
“Wear your heart on your sleeve”
It is commonly known that “to wear your heart on your sleeve” refers to someone who openly shows their emotions and affections. This phrase originated in the Middle Ages when knights, who battled for honor, were given tokens of a lady’s affection. The lady would present the knight with the token, such as a handkerchief, as a sign she “gave her heart” to him. The knight would then put the token on his sleeve for everyone to see.
If you would like to learn more about the origins of common phrases, Albert Jack has published many books that are an interesting read. You can visit his website to explore more.