Monday, January 08, 2007

Where Did That Cliche Come From?

How do cliches become, yanno, cliches? From widespread overuse, that's how. Some of them are very descriptive, though. I found this website that lists many cliches, phrases, expressions and sayings that have stood the test of time.

Some of my favorites...

A bitter pill to swallow: Meaning: An experience that's difficult or painful to accept. Origin: This phrase refers to taking medicine in the days before doctors had any way to make pills more palatable. The bark of the cinchona tree was used to fight malaria, but the quinine in it was extremely bitter. Widely employed in the era before coated medication, cinchona pellets caused any disagreeable thing to be termed a bitter pill to swallow.

Ace up your sleeve: Meaning: A surprise or secret advantage, especially something tricky that is kept hidden until needed. Origin: In the 1500s, most people didn’t have pockets in their clothes, so they kept things in their sleeves. Later on, magicians hid objects, even small live animals, up their sleeves and then pulled them out unexpectedly to surprise their audiences. In the 1800s dishonest card players secretly slipped a winning card, often an ace, up their sleeves and pulled it out when nobody was looking.

Armed to the teeth: Meaning: To be heavily armed. Origin: This is a pirate phrase originating in Port Royal Jamaica in the 1600's. Having only single shot black powder weapons and cutlesses, they would carry many of these weapons at once to keep up the fight. In addition they carried a knife in their teeth for maximum arms capability.

There you go... Just a few to whet your appetite. Check out the website I linked above. It's a hoot.

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