07/10/2022 Clichés   1 comment

Have you ever had the pleasure of talking with someone who has mastered the art of speaking in clichés? ? I’ve met one or two over the years and it’s actually pretty funny. We all use clichés everyday but almost no one knows how they originated and what their original meaning was. Here are just a few examples . . .

BAKER’S DOZEN

This phrase dates back to medieval England. Henry III (1216-1272) instituted a law, The Assize of Bread and Ale, that called for severe punishment for any baker caught shortchanging customers. English bakers developed the habit of including an extra loaf of bread when asked for a dozen to ensure that if one were stolen, dropped, or lost, they wouldn’t be accused of shortchanging their customers.

BY THE SKIN OF ONE’AS TEETH

By the narrowest of margins. By a hairs breath. There are several metaphors emphasizing the physical danger of a given situation from which one might just have 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

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 originally a reference to a monkey’s testicles. A brass monkey is a type of rack in which cannonballs were stored. Being brass, the “monkey” contracted in cold weather, resulting in the cannonballs being ejected. The expression has also mutated into a shortened form, again commenting on the temperature, as “brass monkey weather”.

EVERY DOG HAS IT’S DAY

This is a commonly used phrase that seems to have appeared in an English writing of R. Tavener in 1539 and subsequently by Shakespeare:

“Let Hercules himself do what he may, the cat will mew, and the dog will have his day.” Hamlet (1600;5:1)

Well, there you have it. These three clichés have been used by millions of people and now you’re one of the few that knows the actual story behind them.

One response to “07/10/2022 Clichés

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. These and their origins are fascinating. But here’s another interesting fact: some cliches can be categorized. There’s a term called, “Thought-terminating cliches. Here’s a few examples…”whatever”, “you only live once”,
    “It’s all relative” and your favorite, “it is what it is”!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: