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The English language is full of weird and wonderful expressions, some more overused than others. But, when cliches creep into our everyday speech, how often do we think about where they come from? Here is the origin of cliches.
1. Flavor of the Month
In an advertising ploy, shoppers were persuaded to deviate from their regular flavor ice cream and buy something different. It was popularized in the 1940s.
2. To Bite The Bullet
Biting the bullet was a literal saying that comes from field surgery before the anaesthetic was available. A wounded soldier would be given a bullet to bite on during surgery – distracting him and making him less likely to scream from pain.
3. Spilling The Beans
Ever spill the beans about something you weren’t supposed to talk about? It’s thought that the origin of this cliche stems from Ancient Greek voting practices where black and white beans were designated for yes and no votes. Upon the edible ballot counting, the beans were then spilled out of a pot to be counted.
4. The Hair of the Dog
Untill about 200 years ago, the medical practice of treating like with like was commonplace. If someone was bit by a rabid dog, the would was dressed with the burned hair (yuck) of said dog as the antidote. These days, it’s used strictly for hangover purposes – thankfully.
5. To Sell Someone Down the River
Anyone who has been cheated may have said that they were sold down the river. During the slave trade in the United States, slaves were sent down the Mississippi river and sold through slave markets to other southern states. Selling a slave “down the river” refers to the fact that he lost his home and family as a result of the transaction of slaveholders.
6. Put a Sock in It
Gramophones from the late 19th century had large horns that amplified the music they played. But, because the record players had no volume control, the easiest way to muffle the sounds was to literally put a sock into the horn.
7. The Walls Have Ears
If you don’t want someone hearing what you might be saying, remember that the walls just may have ears. Why? Because in the time of Catherine de’Medici, wife of Henry II of France, specific rooms in the Louvre Palace were rumoured to have a network of listening tubes, enabling what was said in each room to be heard in another.