Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Why You Say What You Say

Time for some light hearted trivia. Today we explore the unlikely origins of some well known idioms. For reference- all information comes from the Idiom Site.

Copasetic ("The Cop is on the Settee,"): it meant that he was sound asleep and it was safe to enter the building. The phrase was used so much that it eventually was shortened to the version we know today as COPESETIC, ............say it real fast............THECOPISONTHESETTEE.

Cut to the chase: A movie term from the 1920's, it originally meant to cut from a dramatic scene to an action scene (like a chase).

Deadline: Originated in the American Civil War, where a prisoner would be shot if they crossed a line around the prison or prison camp.

Mad As A Hatter: refers to mercury nitrate that was used by hat makers to make fur pelts softer and suitable for hat use. After years of mercury exposure it would make the user quite mentally unstable.

Pie in the Sky: Of course, this means to search for the impossible dream but it originated in the early 1900's. A famous labor organizer named Joe Hill was extremely critical of the clergy's treatment of slaves. He wrote a tune called 'The Preacher and the Slave" accusing the clergy of making false promises of a better life in heaven while people starved on earth. The song goes: 'Work and pray, live on hay. You'll get pie in the sky when you die. That's a lie!



2 Comments:

Blogger M.T. Daffenberg said...

I really like info like this. And all the ones you posted are new to me. Thanks! Odd how we readily use these phrases, terms and words, yet we rarely observe their origins and true meanings. And thanks for the link, too.

Literacy is cool!

6:57 PM  
Blogger Chris Granger said...

This is great!

[ taken from http://www.collinslibrary.com/about1.html ]
English as She is Spoke.
By Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino.

In 1855, Jose da Fonseca and Pedro Carolino sat down to write an English phrasebook for Portuguese students. There was just one problem: they didn't know English. Even worse, they didn't own an English-to-Portuguese dictionary. What they did have, though, was a Portuguese-to-French dictionary and a French-to-English dictionary. Perhaps the worst foreign phrasebook ever written, the resulting linguistic train wreck was first published in 1855 and became a classic of unintentional humor. Armed with Fonseca and Carolino's guide, a Portuguese traveler could complain about his writing implements ("This pen are good for notting"), insult a barber ("What news tell me? all hairs dresser are newsmonger"), complain about the orchestra ("It is a noise which to cleave the head"), go hunting ("Let aim it! let make fire him!"), and consult a handy selection of truly mystifying Idiotisms and Proverbs ("Nothing some money nothing of Swiss.") Mark Twain, prefacing an American edition, marveled of its "miraculous stupidities" that "Nobody can add to the absurdity of this book, nobody can imitate it successfully, nobody can hope to produce its fellow; it is perfect."

Here's the list of Idiotisms and Proverbs:
http://crossroads.net/honyaku/easis/idiotisms_proverbs.html

They're funnier if you read them aloud to someone.
My personal favorites are:
Friendship of a child is water into a basket.
Tell me whom thou frequent, I will tell you which you are.
To craunch the marmoset.
and
To make paps for the cats.

12:13 PM  

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