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The Cat's Pyjamas

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To throw in the sponge

Post by Kitkat on Sun 29 Jan 2017, 10:44

TO THROW IN THE SPONGE

To throw in, or throw up, the sponge means to give up, to admit defeat.  The metaphor is from prize-fighting, which predated modern boxing, and refers to a second from the boxer's corner tossing a sponge, used to refresh his contestant in between rounds, towards the centre of the ring, to signify that his man is beaten.

'To thow in the towel' also means to concede defeat in boxing, for a second might also literally throw a towel into the ring to show that the game is up.
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Too many cooks spoil the broth

Post by Kitkat on Mon 30 Jan 2017, 16:50

TOO MANY COOKS SPOIL THE BROTH

A well-known proverb meaning that too many opinions on a matter become self-defeating.  The adage has been in use since the sixteenth century, if not before.

For almost every proverb or nugget of wisdom, however, there is usually another that means precisely the opposite:  the usual riposte for 'too many cooks spoil the brother' being 'many hands make light work'.

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To turn the tables

Post by Kitkat on Tue 31 Jan 2017, 15:04

TO TURN THE TABLES

To reverse a situation and put one's opponent in the predicament that one has been suffering.  The saying was recorded in the early seventeenth century and was applied to the game of backgammon, the table or board on which it was playing being known as 'the tables'.

The phrase may come from the old rumoured custom of reversing the table, or board, in games of chess or draughts, so that the opponents' relative positions are altogether changed - but even then it had a figurative meaning too.

In a sermon published in 1632, an English deacon called Robert Sanderson (1587-1663),who later became the Bishop of Lincoln, said:

  • Whosoever thou art that dost another wrong, do but turn the tables: imagine thy neighbour were now playing thy game, and thou his.


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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Stardust on Tue 31 Jan 2017, 17:26

Kitkat wrote:Benjamin Franklin suggested the turkey should be the emblem of the United States of America - however, the bald eagle was chosen instead.

Just as well or they'd be eating bald eagle for Thanksgiving instead of turkey!



Be grateful for even the smallest thing, blessings come in many disguises.
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Under the counter

Post by Kitkat on Wed 01 Feb 2017, 18:08

UNDER THE COUNTER

This phrase originated during the Second World War, and describes a - then very common - practice among tradesmen with an eye to the main chance.

From the outbreak of the war, many items, ranging from the basics like eggs, butter, meat and jam to 'luxuries' such as petrol, silk stockings and chocolate, were rationed.  Dishonest tradesmen would keep articles and foodstuffs that were in short supply out of sight or 'under the counter', for sale to favoured customers, usually at inflated prices.

This form of trading was part of the thriving wartime black market, and the term is still used to describe any illicit trading.

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Not on your nellie!

Post by Kitkat on Thu 02 Feb 2017, 16:21

NOT ON YOUR NELLIE!

Not bloody likely, not on any account, on your life.  One conjecture is that it derives from a cockney rhyming slang from around the 1930s, 'Nellie Duff' ('duff' rhymes with puff, i.e. breath, that which keeps you alive).

Another theory  is that your 'nellie' is your stomach, your 'Aunt Nellie' - belly, something that in a more refined age you did not reveal to the world.

The phrase was one of comedian Frankie Howerd's (1917-92) catchphrases, which he popularized in the 1940s.

Here is the very first episode.  Hilda Baker (Nellie) just has me in stitches.  Just looking at her makes me laugh - and I love the way she gets all her words mixed up. 

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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Stardust on Thu 02 Feb 2017, 16:51

giggle 
I thought, hmmm, 26 minutes of some old TV show, so I only clicked out of curiosity, but thanks Kitkat, I don't regret it. Some of those silly gags had me curled up with laughter. They certainly weren't afraid of ridicule - what year was that?
sunny



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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Kitkat on Thu 02 Feb 2017, 16:58

Stardust wrote:giggle 
I thought, hmmm, 26 minutes of some old TV show, so I only clicked out of curiosity, but thanks Kitkat, I don't regret it. Some of those silly gags had me curled up with laughter. They certainly weren't afraid of ridicule - what year was that?
sunny

Not sure, Stardust.  I never saw it when it was on telly.  Looks kind of 70s(?)  I've just been watching more episodes on YouTube. lololol   I do remember Hilda Baker from a series called Nearest and Dearest.  Loved it.  She was still the same character.
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Hylda Baker

Post by Stardust on Thu 02 Feb 2017, 17:37

Take a look here, Kitkat. Don't let the red colour put you off, click on Enter and there's lots on there of interest, all about Hylda Baker.
http://www.hyldabaker.com/



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To walk the plank

Post by Kitkat on Sat 04 Feb 2017, 20:39

TO WALK THE PLANK

To be put to the supreme test or, worse, to be about to die.

'Walking the plank' is a nautical term for a punishment involving being made to walk blindfold and with bound hands along a plank suspended over the ship's side - one eventually lands up in the drink as shark food, if not drowned first.  It was a pirate custom of disposing of prisoners at sea in the seventeenth century.

The practice is probably more familiar in fiction than in fact, however, since pirates would have been unlikely to kill off captives, who could have been sold as slaves or ransomed.

In R.L. Stevenson's (1850-94) novel The Master of Ballantrae (1889), James Durie and Colonel Francis Burke enlist with the pirates who capture their ship, but the brigands make their other prisoners walk the plank.

The infamous Captain Hook, in J.M. Barrie's (1860-1937)
Peter Pan and Wendy (1912), meanwhile, threatened to flog Wendy and the Lost Boys with a cat-o'-nine-tails ... and then make them walk the plank.

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What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

Post by Kitkat on Sun 05 Feb 2017, 12:02

WHAT IS SAUCE FOR THE GOOSE IS SAUCE FOR THE GANDER

This old phrase seems to promote sexual equality long before it was fashionable.  It suggests that the same rules apply in both cases -what is fitting for the husband should also be fitting for the wife - though it is more likely that the phrase was used more generally to mean what is good enough for one person is good enough for another.

Originally, 'sauce', from the Latin salsus, meant salted food used as a relish with meat, such as pickled roots and herbs.  'Sauce' these days also means 'cheek' or 'impertinence', perhaps in relation to the piquancy of such relishes.

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To be worth one's salt

Post by Kitkat on Mon 06 Feb 2017, 11:55

TO BE WORTH ONE'S SALT

'Salt' is a significant euphemism, from the early nineteenth century onwards, for one's financial worth, as a play on the world 'salary', or the amount one earned.

In Roman times, a soldier received part of his pay in the form of a salarium, or salary, which was actually an allowance for the purchase of salt (the Latin for 'salt' is sal).  Salt was not easily obtainable then, and a soldier was not 'worth his salt' if he did not come up to scratch - that is, did not deserve his salarium.

Consequently to be 'true to one's salt' is to be loyal to your employers, those who pay your salary, or to maintain or stand by one's personal honour.

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A wolf in sheep's clothing

Post by Kitkat on Tue 07 Feb 2017, 13:38

A WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING

Used to describe a malicious or dangerous person who uses a facade of innocence to fool others as to his or her true character.

The idea of such dissemblance has long been in circulation.  

One of the earliest phrases linking wolves and sheep comes from the Bible:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Matthew 7:15

The original source of the phrase, however, is thought to be Aesop's Fables, written in the sixth century BC. In the story, a wolf who is hunting sheep realizes that he can get close to the flock by disguising himself with a sheep's skin. But once he is among them, the shepherd - looking for a sheep to kill for his supper - mistakes the wolf for a suitable sheep and cuts its throat.

The moral of the story is that the wrongdoer will be punished by his own deceit.


I love Aesop's Fables - from the unique animal characters depicted therein, to the inevitable moral of the story.
I had the whole collection of Aesop's Fables way back when I was at school. Don't know what happened to it. I think I'll have to search them out again.
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About one's ears

Post by Kitkat on Wed 08 Feb 2017, 13:54

ABOUT ONE'S EARS

This colloquialism, which means to be in a very bothersome situation in which one might sustain some pain or trouble, is a shortened form of the saying 'to bring a hornets' nest about one's ears'.  A hornet is a type of large wasp, which can inflict a savage sting.

The expression 'to stir up a hornets' nest' implies the same degree of trouble as the phrase above - and suggests perhaps deliberate provocation too.

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A drowning man will clutch at a straw

Post by Kitkat on Thu 09 Feb 2017, 12:35

A DROWNING MAN WILL CLUTCH AT A STRAW

Someone in desperate circumstances will reach out and grab hold of anything, however flimsy or inadequate, in the hope of surviving the situation.  The phrase is often shortened to 'clutching at straws'.

It was first used in print by Sir Thomas More (1478-1535) in 1534, in his Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation.

The word 'straw' has been used as a metaphor for years, representing the insubstantial or groundless, as in a 'man of straw', someone financially insecure or with a poor credit rating.  We also have 'the lasts straw (that broke the camel's back)', that little extra burden which makes something no longer bearable (as with the camel's load, tipping the balance of tolerance).

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As drunk as a lord

Post by Kitkat on Fri 10 Feb 2017, 13:36

AS DRUNK AS A LORD

This simile must have first become common in the eighteenth century, when the consumption of alcohol was something well-bred gentlemen liked to boast about.

At that time, people from the lower social classes simply could not afford to buy the amount of alcohol required to get one very drunk.  Consequently, excessive consumption became a clear sign of wealth.

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As easy as pie

Post by Kitkat on Sat 11 Feb 2017, 12:11

AS EASY AS PIE

Making a pie is not easy and this expression must apply to the eating of it.  It originates in nineteenth-century America, where sweet pie was a common dish and the word 'pie' was associated with simple pleasures.

An easy task can also be described as a 'piece of cake', which is also easy to obtain and eat, as opposed to baking it.

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Eery dog has its day

Post by Kitkat on Sun 12 Feb 2017, 13:37

EVERY DOG HAS ITS DAY

This is a commonly used phrase that seems to have first appeared in English in the writings of R. Taverner in 1539 and subsequently in those of Shakespeare.

Let Hercules himself do what he may,
The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.
~ Hamlet (1600; 5:1)

It means that everyone will have a chance one day; everyone will have a moment of success or of being important eventually.  This sentiment has been expressed for thousands of years.

The Latin proverb reads Hodie mihi - cras tibi, 'Today to me, tomorrow to thee'.  And another ancient old wives' tale states that: 'Fortune visits every man once, she favours me now, but she will favour you in your turn.'

As a further example, Peter Pindar wrote in his Odes to Condolence (1972):

Thus every dog at last will have his day -
He who this morning smiled at night may sorrow,
The grub today's a butterfly tomorrow.

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Every cloud has a silver lining

Post by Kitkat on Mon 13 Feb 2017, 14:07

EVERY CLOUD HAS A SILVER LINING

In every situation, no matter how seemingly hopeless and gloomy, there is always some redeeming brightness to be found if one takes the trouble to look for it - 'while there's life, there's hope.'

This optimistic guidance to look on the bright side has been around since Roman times (although one Latin proverb reads, 'After the sun, the clouds').

The phrase is thought to have its origins in Milton's (1608-74) Comus (1634): The lady lost in  the wood resolves not to give up hope and says:

Was I deceived or did a sable cloud
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?


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St Valentines Day

Post by Whiskers on Tue 14 Feb 2017, 13:40

What is the origin of St Valentines Day?   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valentine's_Day

(Hope its OK to put this here KK)


The Legend of St. Valentine

The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine’s actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.
Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first “valentine” greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl–possibly his jailor’s daughter–who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed “From your Valentine,” an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and–most importantly–romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

Origins of Valentine’s Day: A Pagan Festival in February

While some believe that Valentine’s Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine’s death or burial–which probably occurred around A.D. 270–others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine’s feast day in the middle of February in an effort to “Christianize” the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.
To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Valentine’s Day: A Day of Romance

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”–at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.
Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine’s didn’t begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

Typical Valentine’s Day Greetings

In addition to the United States, Valentine’s Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine’s Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one’s feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine’s Day greetings.
Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as “scrap.” Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine’s Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

HAPPY VALENTINES DAY EVERYONE  happyheart I love you
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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Kitkat on Tue 14 Feb 2017, 16:59

Whiskers wrote:(Hope its OK to put this here KK)


The Legend of St. Valentine



Absolutely fine, Whiskers.  Very Happy   The perfect place for it to go.  This thread is to record the origins and meanings of any expressions, customs, traditions, etc.  It's not just for the ones in the book (The Cat's Pyjamas).  The book ones will be coming to an end soon anyway, so the more the merrier!

And ....
Happy St. Valentine's Day, everyone!  happyheart
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An eye for an eye

Post by Kitkat on Wed 15 Feb 2017, 14:35

AN EYE FOR AN EYE

Punishment equal to the crime, retaliation in kind, or simply getting even.  The justification for this form of retribution comes from the Old Testament:

Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
Exodus 21:24

Jesus referred to these words in the New Testament and put his own spin on their message, creating another commonly used expression, 'to turn the other cheek':

Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:  But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.


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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Stardust on Wed 15 Feb 2017, 16:44

I don't agree with either of them.



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To fiddle while Rome burns

Post by Kitkat on Thu 16 Feb 2017, 12:36

TO FIDDLE WHILE ROME BURNS

To delay or vacillate or do nothing during an emergency or crisis - an allusion to Nero's reputed behaviour during the burning of Rome in AD 64.

Nero Claudius Caesar (AD 37-68) was the infamous Roman emperor whom his contemporaries believed to be the instigator of the fire that destoyed most of the city.  As the blaze raged, it is said that he sang to his lyre and recited his own poetry, whilst enjoying the spectacle from the top of a high tower.

Many historians doubt his complicity, however, and Nero himself blamed the Christians.

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The full monty

Post by Kitkat on Fri 17 Feb 2017, 13:41

THE FULL MONTY

Everything, the lot, the complete works.  Said of anything done to the utmost or fullest degree.

The origin of the expression is uncertain.  It may derive from the 'full amount'; or the Spanish card game monte (literally mountain or heap of cards); or it may refer to the full, three-piece, 'Sunday best' suit from the men's outfitters Montague Burton.

The full English breakfast - bacon, eggs, sausage, black pudding, beans, fried bread ... that is, the works - was popularly known as the 'Full Monty' after the Second World War.  It is sometimes said this was because Field Marshall Sir Bernard Montgomery, nicknamed 'Monty' (1887-1976), was said to have started every day with a full English breakfat when campaigning in North Africa.

The British phrase became even more popular in the Engllish-speaking world after the release of the hit 1997 film The Full Monty, directed by Peter Cattaneo (1964-).  The movie followed a fictitious group of unemployed factory workers from Sheffield, who raise money by staging a strip act at a local club and taking off 'the full monty'.
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At full tilt

Post by Kitkat on Sat 18 Feb 2017, 11:58

AT FULL TILT

At full speed or with full force.

The expression probably originated in the fourteenth century, when 'tilting at the quintain' was a popular sport among medieval knights.  A dummy head, often representing a Turk or Saracen, was fastened to rotate around an upright stake fixed in the ground.  At full speed, the knight on horseback tilted towards the head with his lance.  If he failed to strike it in the right place, it would spin round and strike him in the back before he could get clear.

Tilting at the quintain remained a rustic sport, especially popular at wedding celebrations, until the mid seventeenth century.

The similar phrase 'to tilt at windmills' has a rather different meaning, namely 'to battle fanciful enemies'.  The reference is to the crazed knight Don Quixote (in Miguel de Cervante's [1547-1616] novel, Don Quixote, 1605), who imagined the windmills to be giants and advanced to attack.


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