Categories

Archives

The origin of phrases: Part six

So far (in parts 1-5) we’ve shared a wealth of randomly chosen idioms. For parts 6-9, we’ve decided to concentrate on categories. Part Six is ANIMALS…

Make a beeline

Meaning: Head straight for someone / something with unwavering purpose

Origin: As you’d imagine, this comes from the behaviour of bees. When a forager bee discovers a source of nectar it comes back to the hive to let the others know where to go. It performs a ‘waggle dance’ – the angle of the waggle shows the direction of the source and the length of the ‘run’ shows the distance from the hive.

Cock and bull story

Meaning: An unbelievable story, thought to be made up

Origin: Based on the meaning of this idiom, we were quite happy to discover that there are plenty of stories around the origin of this phrase, many of them unbelievable. One suggests the phrase comes from a time when coaches used to carry travellers to two inns – The Cock and The Bull – along the old London Road at Stony Stratford. Rivalries between the occupants of the inns arose and these resulted in boastful tales being told.

Cold turkey

Meaning: Sudden withdrawal from something a person is addicted to, without preparation

Origin: Another pesky idiom without a clear history, but one with a few interesting possibilities. One suggestion is that it comes from the idea that cold turkey is a meal that requires little preparation. Another is that it’s a reference to the time after Christmas when cold turkey is traditionally eaten, signalling the end of the festive period during which many people drink too much.

Cook someone’s goose (Your goose is cooked)

Meaning: Standing in the way of someone to ensure they don’t achieve something / to ruin plans

Origin: The most commonly written about origin is that when a man called Jan Hus (an early 15th Century religious reformer) was on his death bed and proclaimed that the goose would now be cooked. Supposedly the name Hus translated as ‘goose’. This is highly improbable though, as he was martyred in 1415 and the phrase wasn’t spotted in the English language until the mid-1800s. Perhaps more likely is a variation on the saying ‘a goose in the house’, which referred to the hissing of audiences in the theatre when they didn’t like a play, thus spoiling the performance.

Crocodile tears

Meaning: Tears that are believed to be unreal, not through remorse

Origin: In ancient times, there was a notion that crocodiles wept while they ate their prey. While it’s true they have the ability to produce tears, they do so purely to lubricate the eyes, not through sadness or remorse.

Look out for CLOTHING idioms, MUSIC idioms and NATURE idioms.

  1. Debra : 10th May 2014 at 7:56 pm

    I read somewhere that "cold turkey" relates to the flushes and chills (and subsequent outbreaks of gooseflesh) that an addict suffers when withdrawing from drug use…

    (Although if that's true, it's hard to understand why they don't call it "cold goose"!)

Comment?

Processing...
Thank you! Your subscription has been confirmed. You'll hear from us soon.
Why not subscribe to our newsletter?
ErrorHere