Did you know that when you put on your glad rags, pump up the party mode, determine to make the best out of the day with fun and frolic and say, ‘ We are going to paint the town red’, you refer to two infamous vandals/troublemakers from the history who actually painted the town buildings in red?
Today, when we hear or speak the popular English idioms and phrases, we absolutely never mean those phrases in the literal sense because over the years, these phrases have come to stand for a meaning that cannot be derived out of it literally. However, it might be intriguing to know that most of these idioms and phrases have stories behind them that quite literally fit the idioms and phrases.
‘An apple of my eye’ is the beautiful phrase that most of us have heard from our mothers or elders in the family who love us and pamper us. While we only see apples in the fruit baskets in our home, the origin of this phrase comes from the fact that during the Shakespearean era, wherein the phrase was popularized after its usage in A Midsummer Night’s dream, it was believed that the human pupil was a solid apple like construct.
While the proper origin details about ‘on cloud nine’ are obscured, it is believed that during the 1950s, this phrase was made popular by a radio program wherein the eponymous hero Jonny dollar would find himself floating on clouds above the city environs every time he would end up unconscious. Eventually the phrase came to expand its meaning and apart from the ecstasy of intoxication, it came to encompass the expression of immense happiness.
The next time someone pulls your leg, be thankful that he/she is not doing it quite literally for the origin of the phrase is not at all funny and has more to do with facing robbery and theft rather than just being a butt of jokes. Reference has it that this phrase originated from a method used by robbers who used to think of ways to knock a person to the ground and rob him/her. The robber assigned the duty of pulling a leg used to be on ‘tripper up’ duty. They literally had a phrase for pulling a leg.
Secrets are like cats. Well, that is what the origin of ‘Let the cat out of the bag’ suggests. Long before the 17th Century there was a case of then common street frauds wherein cats (apparently not very valuable) were placed instead of pigs (apparently very valuable) in the name of pigs and if ever the cat would come out of the bag, well then the gig was over, just like how its contemporary meaning refers to revealing a secret at a wrong time.
There are so many more like these with interesting origins. Explore!