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Before They Were Cliches

Ever wonder where a saying originated, before it became a cliche? Read on:

Buying the farm — During World War I, soldiers were given life-insurance policies worth $5,000, which was about the price of an average farm. Therefore, if you died, you bought the farm for your survivors.

Hot off the press —  As the newspaper goes through the rotary printing press, friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press, it’s hot.

Ironclad contract — This arose from the ironclad ships of the Civil War, which were thought to be so strong, they could not be broken.

Over a barrel — In the days before CPR, a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel, and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in a effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. Even then, if you are over a barrel, you are in deep trouble.

Passing the buck/The buck stops here — Long before Harry S. Truman had a sign on his desk, most men in the early west carried a jackknife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker, it was common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer to identify him. When it was time for a new dealer, the deck of cards and the knife were passed. If this person didn’t want to deal, he would pass the buck to the next player. If that player accepted, the buck stopped there.

Sleep tight —  Early beds were made with wooden frames. Ropes were tied across the frame in a crisscross pattern. A straw mattress then was put on top of the ropes. Over time the ropes stretched, causing the bed to sag. The owner would then tighten the ropes to get a better night’s sleep.

The whole nine yards — American fighter planes in World War II had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges.
The average plane held belts that were 27 feet, or nine yards, long. If the pilot used up all his ammo, he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

Thanks to Jackson S. for the information.

Until next time! Use the right words!


May 11, 2015 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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