All Women's Talk

7 Old Sayings and Their Origins ...

By Kelly

Archaeologists track the past, siblings track their family history, and I track old sayings and their origins. It's fascinating how people capture and hold on to elements of the past and incorporate them into everyday living. Something that does inevitably get handed down throughout generations are common sayings. Now it's time to discover more about old sayings and their origins.

1 Break the Ice

Sometimes it can be difficult to trace old sayings and their origins. However, "break the ice" is a pretty easy one. Broadly speaking, back in the 1500’s ice-breaking ships were introduced to inhabited polar regions. You can’t explore this part of the world without breaking the ice. Similar to icy company, discover the person by simply breaking the ice.

2 Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Ever given a loved one a gift and then stood with them awkwardly while they closely inspect its quality? How rude! In the 16th century if someone was generous enough to give you a horse as a gift, it was deemed rude to immediately inspect its condition. When inspecting the quality of a horse the teeth to indicate its age, the longer the tooth, the older the horse. So cracking open that mouth was deemed as a big no-go zone.

3 Saved by the Bell

Have you been in class and asked a tricky maths question, only to be saved by the bell? Back in the day, when you were saved by the bell, you were literally saved by a bell! Death was misdiagnosed regularly and people were buried alive. To avoid this tragedy, when the dead were buried, a piece of string was attached to their wrist and a bell lay on top of the grave. If the bell rung, it signaled to the gravedigger on site a corpse was in fact alive! Can you dig it?

4 Foaming at the Mouth

At some stage we’ve all experienced someone so angry, they were foaming at the mouth. Admittedly, I myself was foaming at the mouth when Ryan Reynolds got married. I mean didn’t he realize we were engaged? Foaming at the mouth is one of the oldest sayings I’ve come across. It originates from diseases, such as rabies, causing people to literally foam uncontrollably at the mouth.

5 A Frog in Your Throat?

This saying is an oldie but a goodie. Back in medieval times, doctors used to believe the best cure for a cold was frog secretion. The doctor would literally put a frog in your throat to treat the illness. I think I might skip this remedy and just get the flu shot and be done with it.

6 Who Let the Cat out of the Bag?

Ever spoilt a surprise? Back in history, when merchants used to sell live piglets, they’d bag them for the customer to allow for easier transportation. Then when the customer looked away, fraudulent merchants would swap piglets with feral cats. It was only when the customer got home, they would literally let the cat out of the bag.

7 Close, but No Cigar

Carnivals used to give out cigars as prizes. When you came close to winning and fell a little short, you were close… but you didn’t quite get there in the end. It’s like watching that guy in the pub go up and hit onto that girl. Sometimes he comes close but ultimately he goofs it in the end so… close, but no cigar.

I cannot tell you the amount of other amazing, wacky old saying origins my friends told me about when I was developing this article! I truly think I could go on forever and a day. Don’t be shy, share with me an old saying and its origin!

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