KRAZY KATS

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The Video of the Week now showing on Light After Life forum is: 'EXPLORING THE UNEXPLAINED - A JOURNEY INTO SPIRITUALISM'

The Cat's Pyjamas

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Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey

Post by Kitkat on Thu 17 Nov 2016, 15:27

COLD ENOUGH TO FREEZE THE BALLS OFF A BRASS MONKEY

This means that the weather is extremely cold, and although the expression sounds delightfully vulgar,
it was not in fact originally a reference to monkeys' testicles.



A brass monkey is a type of rack in which cannon balls were stored.  Being brass, the 'monkey' contracted in cold weather, resulting in the cannonballs being ejected.

The expression has also mutated to a shortened form, again a comment on the temperature, as 'brass monkey weather'.

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Saved by the bell

Post by Kitkat on Fri 18 Nov 2016, 10:13

SAVED BY THE BELL

This is a boxing term thought to date from the late nineteenth century.  A floored contestant being counted out might be saved by the ringing of the bell marking the end of the round, giving him the three-minute break between rounds to recover.

However, there is another, albeit unsubstantiated, and rather gruesome theory to explain this phrase.  When graveyards become overcrowded in the eighteenth century, coffins were dug up, the bones taken away and the graves reused.

In reopening the coffins, one out of twenty-five was found to have scratch marks on the inside, meaning that its occupant must have been buried alive.

To guard against this most unfortunate occurrence in the future, a string was tied to the wrist of the corpse, which led from the coffin and up through the ground, where it was tied to a bell.  Someone would have to sit in the graveyard all night to listen for the bell - hence the phrase 'saved by the bell'.

From the same derivation, we have night workers on the 'graveyard shift' and sailors on the 'graveyard watch' between midnight and dawn.
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To see a man about a dog

Post by Kitkat on Sat 19 Nov 2016, 11:12

TO SEE A MAN ABOUT A DOG

This is a very shifty turn of phrase and suggests a desire to cover up one's real actions.  It is the excuse offered if one wishes to be discreet and avoid giving the true reason for leaving the room, the meeting or whatever social gathering.

The phrase is sometimes used as a euphemism for some unmentionable activity such as going to the lavatory - or worse, going to do something or meet someone one shouldn't.

The phrase originally referred to betting on dog racing.
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To see red

Post by Kitkat on Sun 20 Nov 2016, 11:26

TO SEE RED

To give way to excessive passion or anger, or to be violently moved; to indulge in physical violence while in a state of frenzy.

The reference is to the spanish spectacle of bullfighting and the art of taunting the bull.  The phrase 'like a red rag to a bull' is said of anything that is calculated to excite rage.  Toreadors' capes are lined with red (although there is actually no evidence to suggest that the colour itself incenses the bulls).

The phrrase may also have blended with an American term in use in the early 1900s, 'to see things red', which describes the feeling of anger when the blood rises, or the 'red mist' descends.
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To sell someone down the river

Post by Kitkat on Mon 21 Nov 2016, 15:33

TO SELL SOMEONE DOWN THE RIVER

This expression means to deceive or to betray.  The phrase probably originated in the first few years of the nineteenth century in the Southern states of America.

Since by then it was illegal to import slaves, there was an internal trade and they were brought down the Mississippi to the slave markets of Natchez or New Orleans.  Therefore if a slave was 'sold down the river', he lost his home and family.

The saying particularly alludes to the practice of selling unruly slaves to owners of plantations on the lower river, where conditions were harsher than in the more northerly slave states.

To 'sell' is old slang for 'swindle' or 'hoax', and a person who has been tricked is said to have been 'sold'.

To 'sell the pass' is to betray one's own side'; the phrase was orignally Irish and is applied to those who turn king's evidence or who betray their comrades for money.

The tradition relates to the behaviour of the regiment that was sent by Clotha, Lord of Atha, to hold a pass against the invading army of Trathal, King of Gael.  The pass was yeilded for money and Trathal, victorious, assumed the title of King of Ireland.
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At the sharp end

Post by Kitkat on Tue 22 Nov 2016, 11:48

AT THE SHARP END

Directly involved with the action, positioned where the competition or danger is greatest.  The connection is not with the point of a sword, but with the pointed shape of the bows of a ship, which are the first towards the enemy at the start of any engagement or battle.

The cry of 'Look sharp!' or 'Sharp's the word!' are both calls to immediate action, whether on the battlefield or in the playground; the expression also means to be observant, to 'keep your eye on the ball'.

Before the days of large supermarkets and closed-circuit television, if a shopkeeper suspected a customer of shoplifting, he would give a coded warning to his assistant by saying, 'Mr Sharp has come in.'



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To be in seventh heaven

Post by Kitkat on Wed 23 Nov 2016, 12:52

TO BE IN SEVENTH HEAVEN

To be supremely happy, in a state of complete ecstasy.


The seventh heaven was defined by the Kabbalists - students of a Jewish mystical system of theology and metaphysics with its roots in ancient Greek teachings, which dates from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and from which Madonna's famous version of Kabbalah stems.

The Kabbalists interpreted passages from the Old Testament based on the symbolism of numbers, devised and decoded charms and created mystical anagrams and the like.  They maintained that there were seven heavens each rising above the other; the seventh being the home of God and the archangels, the highest in the hierarchy of the angels.

Seven is a mystic or sacred number.  It is the sum of four and three which, among the Pythagoreans, were, and have been ever since, counted as lucky numbers.  Among ancient cultures, there were seven sacred planets.

The Hebrew verb 'to swear' means literally to 'come under the influence of seven things', while in an Arabic curse, seven stones are smeared with blood.  All of which demonstrate the power of seven as a mystical number.

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Spin doctor

Post by Kitkat on Thu 24 Nov 2016, 10:18

SPIN DOCTOR

This phrase comes from baseball and refers to the spin put on the ball by a pitcher to disguise its true direction or confuse the batter.

It is an American idiom which was first applied in political commentary in the mid 1980s during Ronald Reagan's presidency, describing his public-relations advisers during promotion of the 'Star Wars' Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI).

These so-called 'spin-doctors' were on 'spin control', their mission being to give the preferred interpretation of events to the world's media, thereby manipulating public opinion in the desired direction.  The spin doctor is now a prominent feature of British politics and business in general.


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To stand in another man's shoes

Post by Kitkat on Thu 24 Nov 2016, 17:57

TO STAND IN ANOTHER MAN'S SHOES

'To stand in another man's shoes' is to take the place of another person emphathetically.

In similar vein, the opportunistic phrase 'waiting for dead men's shoes' is sometimes thought, if not spoken.

Among the Vikings, when a man adopted a son, the adoptee put on the shoes of his new father.


Reynard the Fox, a medieval beast epic (c.1175-1250), is a satire on contemporary life found in French, Flemish and German literature.  Reynard, having turned the tables on the former minister Sir Bruin the Bear, asks the Queen to let him have the shoes of the disgraced bear.  as a result, Bruin's shoes are torn off and put on the new hero.


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Sweet Fanny Adams

Post by Kitkat on Fri 25 Nov 2016, 16:43

SWEET FANNY ADAMS

This expression is ambiguously used to mean either nothing at all, or sweet nothing.  It has a very tragic origin.

In 1867, eight-year-old Fanny Adams was raped and murdered in a hop garden in Alton, Hampshire, and her dismembered body was thrown into the River Wey.  A twenty-one-year-old solicitor's clerk, Frederick Baker, was tried soon after and hanged at Winchester.

The Royal Navy, with extreme black humour, adopted the poor girl's name as a synonym for tinned mutton, which was first isued at this time, and for a while stewed meat was known as Fanny Adams.  'Sweet Fanny Adams' became, as a consequence, a phrase for anything worthless, and subsequently to mean nothing at all.

The phrase is still used today, usually as just the initials 'SFA' or 'sweet FA', which happen to be the same as 'f**k all', from which most people, wrongly, think this expression is derived.

~ o ~


surprised   Now that I know where it comes from, I will never, ever use that expression again.  Evil or Very Mad


After further research, I found this:  https://hampshireculturaltrust.org.uk/content/true-story-sweet-fanny-adams

The true story of Sweet Fanny Adams

Few people who use the expression 'Sweet Fanny Adams' know of its origin. However there was a time when it would have been recognised instantly.

When the name Fanny Adams made sensational headlines, creating a wave of horror, revulsion and pity. Little Fanny Adams was brutally murdered on Saturday 24 August 1867. Nothing much ever happened to disturb the rural Hampshire community of Alton: certainly none of the inhabitants could recall a local murder during their lifetime. So Fanny's mother, Harriet Adams, probably thought it quite safe for three small children to wander off alone towards Flood Meadow, just 400 yards from their home in Tan House Lane.

The crime

Fanny and her friend, Minnie Warner, both eight years old, set off up the lane with Fanny's seven-year-old sister Lizzie and they were approached by a man dressed in black frock coat, light waistcoat and trousers. Despite his respectable appearance he had obviously been drinking, and the proposition he put to the children remains chillingly familiar to today's police officers. He offered Minnie three halfpence to go off and spend with Lizzie, while Fanny could have a halfpenny if she alone would accompany him up The Hollow, an old road leading to the nearby village of Shalden. Fanny took her halfpenny but refused to go with him, whereupon he picked her up and carried her into a nearby hopfield, out of sight of the other children. It was then almost 1.30pm.

At about five o'clock, having played together since Fanny's abduction, Minnie Warner and Lizzie Adams made their way home. Seeing them return, a neighbour, Mrs Gardiner, asked where Fanny was, then rushed to tell Mrs Adams when the children had explained what had happened. The anxious women hurried up the lane, where they met the same man coming from the direction of The Hollow.

Mrs Gardiner accosted him: "What have you done with the child?" "Nothing", he replied equably, maintaining this composure as he answered Mrs Gardiner's other questions. "Yes, he had given them money, but only to buy sweets which I often do to children", and Fanny, unharmed, had left him to rejoin the others. His air of respectability impressed the women and when he told them that he was a clerk of a local solicitor William Clement, they allowed him to leave.

However, at seven o'clock, with the child still missing, worried neighbours formed a search party. They found poor Fanny's dreadfully mutilated remains in the hopfield. It was a sickening scene of carnage. The child's severed head lay on two poles, deeply slashed from mouth to ear and across the left temple. Her right ear had been cut off. Most horribly, both eyes were missing. Nearby lay a leg and a thigh. A wider search revealed her dismembered torso: the entire contents of chest and pelvis had been torn out and scattered, with some internal organs even further slashed or mutilated. So savage was the butchery that other parts of her body were recovered only after extensive searches over several days. Her eyes were found in the River Wey.

On hearing of her daughters death, the distraught Mrs Adams ran to tell her husband (who was playing cricket on the Butts, South of the Town) then collapsed from grief and exhaustion. George Adams reacted to the news by returning home for his shotgun, and setting out for the hopfields in search of the murderer. Fortunately for both, neighbours disarmed him.

The perpetrator

Later that evening, Supt William Cheyney arrested the obvious suspect at his workplace, the solicitor's office in Alton High Street. "I know nothing about it," said 29-year-old Frederick Baker in the first of many protestations of innocence, before Cheyney escorted him through an angry crowd to Alton Police Station.

The wristbands of Baker's shirt and his trousers were spotted with blood. His boots, socks and trouser bottoms were wet. "That won't hang me, will it?" he said nonchalantly, explaining that it was his habit to step into the water when out walking. But he could not explain how his clothing came to be bloodstained. More evidence - two small knives, one of them stained with blood - came to light when he was searched. The suspect was locked away while Supt Cheyney checked on his movements that afternoon. Witnesses confirmed that he had left the solicitors office shortly after 1pm, returning at 3.25pm, he again went out until 5.30pm. Mrs Gardiner and Mrs Adams had seen him coming from the direction of the hopfield some time after 5pm: if, as seems likely, he had murdered Fanny Adams during his first absence, had he returned to commit further depredations on his victim's body?

Baker's fellow Clerk, Maurice Biddle, spoke of seeing him in the office at about six that evening, when he had described his meeting with Mrs Adams and Mrs Gardiner. Baker had seemed disturbed, "it will be very awkward for me if the child is murdered", he told Biddle. Later they went over to the Swan for a drink where the morose Baker said he might leave town on the following Monday. To his colleague's observation that perhaps he would have difficulty in finding a new job, Baker made the significant reply, "I could go as a butcher".

On the following Monday, whilst searching Baker's office desk, Cheyney found his diary. It contained a damning entry which the suspect admitted writing shortly before his arrest. "24th August, Saturday - killed a young girl. It was fine and hot". At his trial Baker maintained that this entry, written when he was drunk, simply meant that he was aware a girl had been murdered.

The Coroner

Meanwhile, a local painter William Walker had found a large stone in the hopfield, with blood, long hair and a small piece of flesh adhering to it.



This, pronounced Dr Louis Leslie, the Alton divisional police surgeon, was probably the murder weapon; his post-mortem finding was that death had been caused by a crushing blow to Fanny's head.

Tuesday evening saw the inquest before Deputy County Coroner Robert Harfield at the Duke's Head Inn. After viewing the gruesome remains, hearing the evidence and the handcuffed prisoners reply when the coroner asked if he wished to say anything ("No Sir - only that I am innocent"), the jury returned a verdict "wilful murder against Frederick Baker for killing and slaying Fanny Adams". He was remanded to Winchester Prison to await the formal committal hearing.

This was held at Alton Town Hall on Thursday 29 August before local magistrates. Still protesting his innocence, the prisoner was committed for trial at the next County Assizes. A large crowd awaited his removal from the Town Hall and the Police were only able to protect him from the violence of the mob with great difficulty. Baker's trial opened at Winchester Assizes on 5 December.

Little Minnie Warner was carried into court to testify; the defence strongly challenged her identification of Baker and also claimed (perhaps correctly) that it was impossible for his small knives to have dismembered the unfortunate Fanny so thoroughly. But the defence case centred on Baker's mental state, a sad tale of hereditary insanity.

His father had "shown an inclination to assault even to kill, his children"; a cousin had been in asylums four times; brain fever had caused his sister's death; and he had attempted suicide after an abortive love affair.

Apparently unimpressed, the jury rejected Mr Justice Mellor's judicial advice that they might consider the prisoner irresponsible for his actions through insanity, possibly the inevitable verdict today.

After retiring for only 15 minutes the jury returned a guilty verdict, and Frederick Baker was hanged before a crowd of 5000, a large proportion of whom consisted of women, in front of Winchester's County Prison at 8am on Christmas Eve, 1867.

Following the execution it became known that Baker had written to the parents of the murdered child to express deep sorrow over the crime that he had committed "in an unguarded hour and not with malice aforethought". He earnestly sought their forgiveness adding that he was "enraged at her crying, but it was done without any pain or struggle". The prisoner denied most emphatically that he had violated the child, or had attempted to do so.

Poor Fanny's headstone which was erected by Public subscription and renovated a few years ago, is pictured here with her younger sister and Minnie Warner, and still stands in the town cemetery on the Old Odiham Road. It might have been our only reminder of the tragic affair had it not been for the macabre humour of British Sailors.

Served with tins of mutton as the latest shipboard convenience food in 1869, they gloomily declared that their butchered contents must surely be 'Sweet Fanny Adams'. Gradually accepted throughout the armed services as a euphemism for 'sweet nothing' it passed into common usage.

As an aside, the large tins in which the meat was packed for the royal navy, were often used as mess tins and it appears that even today mess tins are colloquially known as 'fannys'.

   
 
The Fanny Adams sampler reads:
The Alton Murder

The inhabitants of Alton have subscribed funds for the neat headstone to the grave of the girl Fanny Adams who was so brutally murdered by Frederick Baker. The headstone has been placed in the cemetery and bears the following inscription.

' Sacred to the memory of Fanny Adams aged 8 years and 4 months who was cruelly murdered August 24th, 1867'.
Fear not them which kill the body, but rather fear Him who is able to kill both body and soul in hell.'

Hundreds of persons have visited the cemetery". Emma Robinson 1874

The colours of the silks on the back are greens and reds and blues and yellows but these have considerably faded on the front. It is all done in cross stitch, with some additional threads laid diagonally on one feature in the top right corner.
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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Stardust on Sat 26 Nov 2016, 19:32

On the other hand, her name remains on many lips nearly 150 years later, even if most people don't know the origin (I didn't, either).

In some way it's keeping her memory alive and that's the least the girl deserves after being so brutally and horrifically murdered and butchered.

Poor girl, she hardly had a start on life's journey before she was snatched away.


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Be grateful for even the smallest thing, blessings come in many disguises.
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Sweet Fanny Adams

Post by Kitkat on Sun 27 Nov 2016, 14:49

@Stardust wrote:On the other hand, her name remains on many lips nearly 150 years later, even if most people don't know the origin (I didn't, either).

In some way it's keeping her memory alive and that's the least the girl deserves after being so brutally and horrifically murdered and butchered.
For sure, every detail of little Fanny Adams' short life (and her horrific death) must already be well entrenched in the memories of her family and the people who still live in the area; the memory is already etched on her headstone and in tapestry memorials, etc.
I imagine (and hopefully this is the case) that the folks serving today in the Royal Navy that still use the term for their mess cans, have no idea why they are called so.
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Dear-John letter

Post by Kitkat on Sun 27 Nov 2016, 15:02

DEAR-JOHN LETTER

A 'you're dumped' note from a wife or girlfriend breaking the news that the relationship with the recipient is over.

The expression originated during the Second World War and is thought to be American.  The unfortunate objects of Dear John letters were usually members of the armed forces overseas, whose female partners at home had made new liaisons, proving that absence sometimes did not make the heart grow fonder.

the name 'John' was often used to signify 'everyman' at the time, 'John Doe' was the name givenn to any man whose real name was unknown or had to be kept anonymous, like our 'Joe Bloggs' today.

7

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The dog days of Summer

Post by Kitkat on Mon 28 Nov 2016, 11:53

THE DOG DAYS OF SUMMER

Very hot and oppressive Summer days.  The Romans called the hottest weeks of the Summer caniculares dies, and not because dogs are thought to go mad in the heat (although Noel Coward (1899-1973) did write in 1932 that 'mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun').

The theory was that the days when the Dog Star, Sirius - the brightest star in the firmament - rose with the sun were the hottest and most sultry.  It is an ancient belief that the combined heat of Sirius and the sun produced the stifling weather from about 3 July to 11 August.

We also now use the phrase 'dog days' to describe any period of stagnation.


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At the drop of a hat

Post by Kitkat on Wed 30 Nov 2016, 10:54

AT THE DROP OF A HAT

On signal, instantly, without delay.

The expression alludes to the American frontier practice of dropping a hat as a signal for a boxing or wrestling match to begin, usually the only formality observed.  Athletics or horse races also used to be started by the fast downward sweep of a hat.

There are many sayings including the word 'hat', such as 'hats off to him', 'as black as your hat', and 'I'll eat my hat', all of which probably originated in the days when dress codes and social etiquete were more formal, requiring people in polite society to cover their heads.

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At the eleventh hour

Post by Kitkat on Thu 01 Dec 2016, 12:42

AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR

Just in the nick of time, at the last moment, before the end of the day.

The allusion is to Jesus's parable of the labourers hired to work in the vineyard in which those starting work at the eleventh hour - that is, late in the afternoon at about five o'clock - were paid the same as those who had 'borne the burden and heat of the day' (Matthew 20:1-16).


The Allies' armistice with Germany, ending the First World War, came into effect at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918.


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To eat humble pie

Post by Kitkat on Fri 02 Dec 2016, 15:05

TO EAT HUMBLE PIE

To make a humble apology or to submit oneself to a certain degree of humiliation,
to climb down from a position one has assumed, to be obliged to take a lower station.

Here, 'humble' could be a play on the word 'umble', the umbles being the offal - the heart, liver and entrails - of an animal, usually the deer, considered a delicacy by some, although most thought them only fit for the servants.

Though the word humble has a different derivation, the closeness of the two words could be one of the reasons the phrase evolved as it did. For when the lord of the manor and his family dined on venison at high table, the huntsman and lower orders of the household took lower seats and partook of the umbles made into a pie.

James Russel Lowell (1819-91) observed in 1864:

Disguise it as you will, flavour it as  you will, call it what you will, umble pie is umble pie, and nothing else.


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To fight like Kilkenny cats

Post by Kitkat on Sat 03 Dec 2016, 14:07

TO FIGHT LIKE KILKENNY CATS

This is a fight to the end, no holds (as in wrestling) barred.

The connection between fighting and Kilkenny cats is obscure.   From the Norman period until 1843, the city of Kilkenny was divided into Englishtown and Irishtown, with much strife between the two.  One theory harks back to a legendary battle between a thousand cats from Kilkenny and a thousand cats from other parts of Ireland.  In the night-long battle, all the Kilkenny cats survived victorious, while all the others perished.

Another, more popular, theory dates from about 1800, when Kilkenny was occupied by a group of Hessian mercenaries in British government service, some of whom, bored and with nothing better to do, tied two cats to a clothes line by their tails and sat back to enjoy the feline fight.

However, when an officer approached to investigate the noise, the soldiers had no time to release the cats, so they cut the animals free by severing their tails. The officer was told that the cats had fought so fiercely, only their tails remained.

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To be in fine fettle

Post by Kitkat on Sun 04 Dec 2016, 12:37

TO BE IN FINE FETTLE

To be in good order or condition - 'fettle' is an old word meaning condition, order or shape.  Nowadays, it rarely appears on its own, being usually heard in the alliterative phrase.

In the past, we might have heard 'good fettle' or bad fettle', and in John Barleycorn by Jack London (1876-1916), published in 1913, he wrote:

  • Those fifty-one days of fine sailing and intense sobriety had put me in splendid fettle.


The origin of the word 'fettle is somewhat obscure.  It probably comes from the Old English fetel for a belt, so 'fettle' first meant to gird oneself up, as for a heavy task.

The word was most typically used as a verb meaning to put things in order, tidy up, arrange, or prepare.  Such as in Anne Bronte's (1820-49) Agnes Grey (1847), in the Yorkshire dialect speech of a servant:

  • But next day, afore I'd gotten fettled up - for indeed, Miss, I'd no heart to sweeping an' fettling, an' washing pots; so I sat me down i' th' muck - who should come in but Maister Weston.


In Northern English dialects, 'fettle' is sometimes used in the sense of making or repairing something.  In Australia, a 'fettler' is a railway maintenance worker.

It is also used in some manufacturing trades - in metal casting and pottery it describes the process of knocking the rough edges off a piece.
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Gordon Benett

Post by Kitkat on Mon 05 Dec 2016, 11:58

GORDON BENNETT

A mild oath, similar to 'Oh God'.

In fact, 'Gawd' and St Bennett (or Benet) have been put forward as the pair behind this expletive; St Benet is short for St Benedict.  (Shakespeare has in Twelfth Night [1600], 5:1, 'the bells of St Bennet', possibly from the church, St Bennet Hithe, Paul's Wharf, opposite the Globe Theatre.)

However, it seems more likely that the said Gordon Bennett was in fact James Gordon Bennett (1841-1918), the editor-in-chief of the New York Herald, who, among other things, was responsible for sending Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904) to find Dr David Livingstone (1813-73) in Africa.

Extravagant and extrovert, he gave his name to a motor race held in France in the 1900s, where he resided after a scandal in America.  Such was his profile in society that there is a street in Paris named Avenue Gordon-Bennett.

In English, the similarity between Gordon and Gawd must have struck a chord.  At the turn of the nineteenth century, people shied away from blasphemy in the name of God and so this curse, which is still used today, was born.

Similarly, 'Gorblimey' (later 'Cor blimey') evolved instead of 'God blind me'.
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Not on your nellie!

Post by Kitkat on Tue 06 Dec 2016, 16:36

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.
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Once bitten, twice shy

Post by Kitkat on Wed 07 Dec 2016, 13:29

ONCE BITTEN, TWICE SHY

A phrase meaning that one learns from previous experience.

Having been caught out once, one is wary or cautious the next time - and you should therefore learn from your mistakes.

'He that stumbles twice at the same stone deserves to have his shins broke' appears in R. Taverner's list of Proverbs and Adages of 1539, while the American humourist Josh Billings (1818-95) said that 'nobody but a fool gets bit twice by the same dog'.

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To pass the acid test

Post by Kitkat on Thu 08 Dec 2016, 10:08

TO PASS THE ACID TEST

Said of someone or something that has been subjected to a conclusive or severe test.

The phrase was used literally during the American gold rush, when prospectors needed a sure-fire way of telling gold from valueless metals.  Gold is not attacked by most acids, but reacts to nitric acid, also known as aqua fortis, which is therefore the acid used in the 'acid test' for gold.

To 'put on the acid' is probably derived from 'to pass the acid test' and is Australian slang meaning to exert pressure on someone when asking for a favour or a loan.
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The real McCoy

Post by Kitkat on Sun 11 Dec 2016, 16:47

THE REAL McCOY

This is a common American expression, although it originated in Scotland as 'the real Mackay', meaning 'the real thing'.

Mackay was the name of an old family descended from the Scottish people known as the Picts; the term appeared in the Scottish National Dictionary in 1856 as part of the phrase 'a drappie (drop) of the real Mackay'.

In the 1880s, the expression was adopted as an advertising slogan for Mackay whisky, which was exported to America and Canada, where people of Scottish origin drank it and kept the phrase alive.

In the 1890s, it was applied to a famous boxer, the prize fighter Kid 'the Real' McCoy (1872-1940), and this is the spelling that has remained in use.

Coca-Cola, probably the most advertised produce in the world, adapted the phrase in the 1970s by describing their product as 'the real thing' in comparison with any rival products.

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Rule of thumb

Post by Kitkat on Mon 12 Dec 2016, 10:50

RULE OF THUMB

A rough guesswork measure, a calculation based on generally held experience in a certain field.  This rule is distinct from any proven theory.

It refers to the use of the thumb to make rough measurements.  The first joint of the average adult thumb measures 1 inch or 25 mm, so could be used to measure objects quickly that were close at hand; while raising the thumb and aligning it with distant objects was a common way of estimating how far off they were.

There is also an apochryphal derivation for 'rule of thumb':  In the days when it was accepted practice for a man to beat his wife, the stick for this purpose was legally allowed to be no broader than the thickness of a man's thumb; it was illegal for the stick to be thicker and a man using such a stick could be arrested for assault.

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To sit above the salt

Post by Kitkat on Tue 13 Dec 2016, 13:24

TO SIT ABOVE THE SALT

To sit in a place of distinction at the dinner table.

Formerly, the family 'saler' or salt cellar was an ornate silver centrepiece, placed in the middle of the table.  Special or honoured guests of distinction sat above the saler - that is, between the salt and the head of the table where the host sat - while dependants and not-quite-so-important personages sat below.
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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Whiskers on Tue 13 Dec 2016, 23:25

@Kitkat wrote:
TO SIT ABOVE THE SALT

To sit in a place of distinction at the dinner table.

Formerly, the family 'saler' or salt cellar was an ornate silver centrepiece, placed in the middle of the table.  Special or honoured guests of distinction sat above the saler - that is, between the salt and the head of the table where the host sat - while dependants and not-quite-so-important personages sat below.

Never heard that one before.  Really enjoying this thread KK.  Although some of them I already knew, I still learning lots of new things from it.  :thanks:
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A skeleton in the closet

Post by Kitkat on Wed 14 Dec 2016, 09:58

A SKELETON IN THE CLOSET

A domestic source of humiliation or shame which a family or individual conspires to conceal from others.  Every family is said to have one, and certainly these days it seems that every public figure does too, whether it is in the form of an ex-mistress or lover, or some ancient but discreditable financial scam.

The expression seems to have been in use from the early 1800s and may have derived from the gothic horror stories popular at the time, in which murders were concealed by hiding the corpose in a cupboard, or bricking it up in a wall.  In 1853, it appeared in the figurative sense in The Newcomes by William Makepeace Thackeray; And it is from these that we shall arrive at some particulars regarding the Newcome family, which will show us that they have a skeleton or two in their closets s well as their neighbours.

An apocryphal source of the phrase is a story in which a person without a single care or trouble in the world had to be found.  After a long search, a squeaky-clean lady was found, but to the great surprise of all, after she had proved herself on al counts, she went upstairs and opened a closet, which contained a human skeleton.
I try and keep my trouble to myself, but every night my husband makes me kiss that skeleton,' she said.  She then explained that the skeleton was that of her husband's rival, killed in a duel over her.

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To take forty winks

Post by Kitkat on Thu 15 Dec 2016, 11:33

TO TAKE FORTY WINKS

A colloquial term for a short nap or a doze.

Quite why shutting one eye forty times has come to mean a quick snooze is unclear, but it could have something to do with the fact that the number forty appears frequently in the scriptures and used to be thought of as a holy number.

Moses was on the Mount for forty days and forty nights; Elijah was fed by ravens for forty days; the rain of the Flood fell forty days, and another forty days passed before Noah opened the window of the ark.  Christ fasted for forty days and he was seen forty days after his Ressurection.

Modern colloquialisms for a quick nap include a 'zizz' or 'to catch a few zeds' - alluding to the 'Zzz's drawn in cartoons indicating that the character is asleep.  Busy people and politicians who work late into the night maintain their faculties by taking 'power naps' to recharge their batteries.
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Take a rain check

Post by Kitkat on Fri 16 Dec 2016, 12:23

TO TAKE A RAIN CHECK

A rain check is the receipt or counterfoil of a baseball ticket that can be used at a later date if a game has been interrupted by rain.  It is an American expression and the phrase retains the American spelling of 'cheque'.

The phrase is now often used figuratively, to put an invitation on hold and defer it until a dater late.  It is in fact, a polite way of postponing something indefinitely, with only a minor commitment to rearrange.

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A turn-up for the books

Post by Kitkat on Sat 17 Dec 2016, 16:43

A TURN-UP FOR THE BOOKS

A piece of luck or unexpected good fortune, or a surprising turn of events.  This phrase comes from the world of betting on the horses.

The 'book' is the record of bets laid on a race and is naturally kept by a 'book'maker, commonly known as a bookie.  When the horses do not run to form and the favourite does not win, it's a good day for the bookie and he can line his pockets; for him it's a 'turn-up[wards] for the books'.

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To turn the tables

Post by Kitkat on Sun 18 Dec 2016, 18:17

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 played 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 - bt 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 are that does another wrong, do but turn the tables: imagine thy neighbour were now playing thy game, and thou his.

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Under the counter

Post by Kitkat on Mon 19 Dec 2016, 11:20

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 today to describe any illicit trading.

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To walk the plank

Post by Kitkat on Tue 20 Dec 2016, 14:54

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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The walls have ears

Post by Kitkat on Wed 21 Dec 2016, 15:40

THE WALLS HAVE EARS

This is a warning to watch what you say, or what secrets you divulge, wherever you are, because someone might be listening.

In the time of Catherine de'Medici (1519-89), wife of Henry II of France, certain rooms in the Louvre Palace, Paris, were said to be constructed to conceal a network of listening tubes called auriculaires, so that what was said in one room could be clearly heard in another.  This was how the suspicious queen discovered state secrets and plots.

The legend of Dionysus's ear may also have been the inspiration for the phrase.  Dionsus was a tyrant of Syracuse (the Sword of Damocles) in 431-367 BC, and his so-called 'ear' was a large ear-shaped underground cave cut into rock.  It was connected to another chamber in such a way that he could overhear the conversations of his prisoners.

 
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Where there's muck, there's brass

Post by Kitkat on Thu 22 Dec 2016, 18:23

WHERE THERE'S MUCK, THERE'S BRASS

An encouraging phrase to make one roll up one's sleeves and get to work, otherwise a statement that where there is dirt, there is money.  Feeding the soil, harvesting the crops, mining the coal may make your hands dirty, but they can produce untold riches.

The saying has come to be associated with the grimy mining and manufacturing industries of the north of England, many of which brought their owners substantial wealth following the Industrial Revolution of the nineteenth century.

'Brass' is in fact a Yorkshire term for 'money', and this version of the phrase originated there - but the proverb had existed with a different wording since at least 1670, when John Ray (1627-1705) recorded 'Muck and money go together' in his collection of English proverbs.

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What the dickens?

Post by Kitkat on Fri 23 Dec 2016, 15:13

WHAT THE DICKENS?

An exclamation of surprise or disbelief, akin to 'What the devil?'  The phrase is often shortened to 'What the ...?' and in these modern times, 'f**k' is sometimes substituted as the last world.

'Dickens' here is probably a euphemism - one possibly in use since the sixteenth century - for the Devil, otherwise known as Satan or the Prince of Evil, and has nothing to do with the novelist Charles Dickens (1812-70).

In Low German, its equivalent is 'De duks!', which may have become altered in English to 'dickens'.

The phrase was already in use by the time Shakespeare was writing:
"I cannot tell what the dickens his name is.":
The Merry Wives of Windsor (1600:3:2)

'To play the dickens' is an old-fashioned expression meaning to be naughty, or act like a devil.
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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Kitkat on Sat 24 Dec 2016, 16:21

THE CAT'S PYJAMAS

A slang phrase coined by Thomas A. Dorgan. The phrase became popular in the U.S. in the 1920s, along with the bee's knees, the cat's whiskers (possibly from the use of these in radio crystal sets). In the 1920s the word "cat" was used as a term to describe the unconventional flappers from the jazz era. This was combined with the word pyjamas (a relatively new women's fashion in the 1920s) to form a phrase used to describe something that is the best at what it does, thus making it highly sought and desirable.

A report in the New York Times of a publicity stunt by an unknown woman in 1922, in which she paraded along 5th Avenue clad in yellow silk pajamas and accompanied by four cats similarly dressed, may indicate the phrase was already current by that date, as the "cat's meow" certainly was.

So pretty much it means the same thing as phrases like "bee's knees" - something that is highly desirable.

The term "cat's pyjamas" comes from E.B. Katz, an English tailor of the late 1700's and early 1800's, who made the finest silk pyjamas for royalty and other wealthy patrons. This phrase is often likened to and/or confused with the 20's term "cat's meow".

Katz's pyjamas are the cat's pyjamas.

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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Jamboree on Sun 25 Dec 2016, 22:04

@Kitkat wrote:
Katz's pyjamas are the cat's pyjamas.



Seasons greetings to all the krazy katz here, with or without the PJs.  toast   Loving this thread and loving the chat box addition.  :thumb:
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Re: The Cat's Pyjamas

Post by Kitkat on Mon 26 Dec 2016, 18:35

Good to see you here, Jamboree.  I hope you are having a happy Christmas too, wherever you are!
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The writing on the wall

Post by Kitkat on Mon 26 Dec 2016, 18:42

THE WRITING ON THE WALL

This is not graffiti, but a bad sign, a portent, often foreshadowing trouble or disaster.

The metaphor is biblical in origin and comes from Daniel 5:5-31, where King Belshazzar, while he was feasting, found out about the forthcoming destruction of the Babylonian Empire through the mysterious appearance of handwriting on a wall.

The words read in Aramaic, mene, mene, tekel, upharsin:  literally, 'counted, weighed, divided'.  Daniel interpreted these words as, 'You have been weighed in the balance and found wanting', thereby predicting the King's downfall and that of his empire.

Indeed, Belshazzar was killed that night, and his kingdom was conquered.
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The wrong side of the tracks

Post by Kitkat on Tue 27 Dec 2016, 15:10

THE WRONG SIDE OF THE TRACKS

To be born on the wrong side of the tracks is a disadvantage, as it was the part of town deemed to be both  socially and environmentally inferior.

The expression originated in America, where railway lines ran through the centre of towns. Poor and industrial areas were often located to one side of the railroad tracks because the prevailing wind would blow smoke from the railway and smog in that direction, leaving the better-off neighbourhoods unpolluted.

The phrase is now used to refer to anyone who comes from a poor or rough background.

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To act the giddy goat

Post by Kitkat on Wed 28 Dec 2016, 22:09

TO ACT THE GIDDY GOAT

To fool around.  Goats are known for their unpredictable behaviour.

In the literal sense, 'giddy' means 'insane' or to be 'possessed by a god', but it has been used to mean 'silly' or 'foolish' since the early Middle Ages.

In Latin, 'goat' is caper; goats are noted for their frisky nature.  'To cut a caper' means to skip or leap about playfully'.

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To the bitter end

Post by Kitkat on Thu 29 Dec 2016, 19:17

TO THE BITTER END

To the last extremity, to the final defeat, or to the death.  An affliction can be borne until the bitetr end, meaning to the last stroke of bad fortune.

'Bitter end' is a mid-nineteenth-century nautical term for the end of a rope or chain secured in a vessel's chain locker.  When there is no windlass (winch), such cables are fastened to bitts - that is, pairs of bollards fixed to the deck - and when the rope is let out until no more remains, the end is at the bitts: hence the 'bitter end'.

However, the phrase appears in the Old Testament in the context that we use today, and some etymologists believe that this is the true source of the expression:

Her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword.
(Proverbs 5:4)
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To bone up on

Post by Kitkat on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 17:17

TO BONE UP ON

To study intensively, to engage in serious research into a particular subject, or to revise a subject comprehensively.

Some sources suggest that the phrase is an allusion to whalebone in a corset, which sculpts the shape and stiffens the garment, as a metaphor for the gaining of 'hard knowledge'.

Other believe it came from the Victorian practice of using bone to polish leather, and that it indicated a polishing or refinement of knowledge.

However, in the nineteenth century a publishing firm owned by Henry Bohn (1976-1884) produced English translations of Greek and Latin classics that were widely used by students cramming for their exams - andit is possible that the expression 'to Bohn up' may have evolved into 'bone up'.

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The bottom line

Post by Kitkat on Sat 31 Dec 2016, 15:16

THE BOTTOM LINE

The main point of an argument, the basic characteristic of something, the actual value of a financial deal, or the nub or truth of the matter.

The phrase itself is an accounting term, and refers to the figure at the end of a financial statement, indicating the net profit or loss of a company.


'The bottom line' gained wide currency as a phrase during the 1970s, possibly because of its frequent use by the UK Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger (1923-).  He spoke of 'the bottom line' as the eventual outcome of a negotiation - ignoring the distraction of any inessential detail.
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By the skin of one's teeth

Post by Kitkat on Sun 01 Jan 2017, 11:50

BY THE SKIN OF ONE'S TEETH

By the narrowest margin.  There are several metaphors with the meaning 'only just' and many allude to body parts (for example, 'by a hair's breadth'), emphasizing the physical danger of a given situation from which one might have just escaped.

'By the skin of one's teeth' specifically is a (slightly misquoted) biblical phrase that means to have suffered 'a close shave':

My bone cleaveth to my skin, and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.
Job 19:20
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To carry a torch

Post by Kitkat on Mon 02 Jan 2017, 17:52

TO CARRY A TORCH

To suffer unrequited love.  Since the late 1920s,this phrase has been used to describe a long-standing emotional attachment that is either undeclared or not returned.

The torch represents the flame of undying love, and this symbolism may come from depictions of Venus, the goddess of love, holding a burning torch.

A 'torch singer is (usually) a female who sings sentimental love songs.  It is thought that the expression 'torch song', in this sense, may have been coined by Broadway nightclub singer Tommy Lyman in the 1930s.
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To call off all bets

Post by Kitkat on Tue 03 Jan 2017, 18:05

TO CALL OFF ALL BETS

A summons to cancel all wagers, deriving from the race track and the betting shops; for instance, a bookmaker may call off all bets if  he suspects that a race or other contest has been rigged.

In a widening of its meaning, the phrase is used to mean rejecting a complicated or disadvantageous issue.

In African-American slang of the 1940s, however, it meant 'to die' - indeed, the most final way of calling off all bets.
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To case the joint

Post by Kitkat on Wed 04 Jan 2017, 18:54

TO CASE THE JOINT

An American slang expression from the criminal fraternity meaning to inspect or reconnoitre a building before attempting to rob it or break into it for some other nefarious purpose.

'Joint' in this context means 'a building': an early twentieth-century colloquial Americanism for a sleazy dive where opium could be smoked or, during the Prohibition era (1920-33), where illicit spirits could be bought and drunk.  The word 'joint' has since come to be generally applied disparagingly to almost any disreputable establishment.

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To cast the first stone

Post by Kitkat on Thu 05 Jan 2017, 12:40

TO CAST THE FIRST STONE

To be first to criticize, to find fault,to start a quarrel, or to cast aspersions on someone's character.  In biblical times, the barbaric custom of capital punishment was to pelt heretics, adulteresses and criminals with stones and rocks in a public place.

The phrase is from John 8:7, spoken by Jesus to the Scribes and Pharisees who brought before him a woman caught in adultery.  They said that according to the law of Moses, she should be stoned to death, to which Jesus replied: 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.'



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