9 Weird Sayings and Their Origins

There are many weird sayings that we use every single day to describe how we feel, what we are doing, and what we think of other people and situations. Where do these sayings come from?

Moreover, did they originate from anything close to what we use them for now? Following are 9 sayings that are commonly used, and an explanation as to where they started.

1. Mad As a Hatter

This is a widely known saying. Most of us think of Alice in Wonderland when we hear it, but in actuality, this term came about from the 18th and 19th centuries and not the movie. During those periods in time, hat makers used felt that contained mercury, and inhaling mercury vapor has the potential to cause mental illness like dementia. The phrase â??Mad as a Hatterâ? was quickly adopted to describe someone who had gone insane.

 2. Learn the Ropes

This is a saying that we use when we are talking about ourselves, or someone else, learning something new. It is often used during the first days of work, and rightfully so! The saying originated from ship-life when a new person on deck had to learn how to climb the ropes, tie knots, and figure out which rope manipulated the sails correctly. In order for the ship to run smoothly, they literally had to learn the ropes.

3. Let The Cat Out of The Bag

Most of us use this term when a secret gets out accidentally, but when you stop to think about it, letting a cat out of a bag has nothing to do with secrets! In fact, it may have nothing to do with anything! The saying is thought to originate from a time when pigs were sold in sacks (yes, there was such a time). A dishonest seller would switch the pig for a cat at the last minute. When the purchaser got home, and let the cat out of the bag, he quickly realized he had been duped. However, the chances of someone mistaking a catâ??s weight, sound, and form for a pig are mighty unlikely. It turns out this saying may just be said because it is fun to say and caught on as a common saying.

4. Put a Sock in It

This expression is used when we want someone to shut up and stop talking. Older people are more inclined to say it, but it is making its way down the generation pole and younger people use the expression as well. The origin of this saying goes back to the old days when sound reproduction instruments, like the gramophone, had no volume control. Often times the sound was so loud that it was unbearable. Therefore, people literally put a sock into the place where the noise came from to reduce the volume.

5. Peeping Tom

We all know what a peeping Tom is! He is the guy that sits in the tree outside of your window with popcorn and binoculars. The accepted origin of the saying has a similar tone, although a little more innocent. It is said that Lady Godiva was riding her horse nude to convince her husband to lower taxes, and a man named Tom ignored her husbandâ??s request not to look at her as she rode. Some say he went blind and some say he was put to death.

6. Beat Around The Bush

When we are reluctant to say something or ask something, we can beat around the bush. However, the origin of this saying really has nothing to do with speaking, and everything to do with just â?? well, beating bushes. Hunters would literally beat around a bush with something hard to drive prey out so that they did not have to go in after the prey, while other hunters (who did not beat around the bush) wasted no time and just went straight in to find the prey.

7. A Long Shot

When betting, a long shot usually pays more. This is because it has less of a chance of winning. The saying originated from the past when guns were not very accurate at a long-range, which meant that a long shot only had a small chance of hitting a desired target.

8. Show Your True Colors

This saying is used to encourage people to be themselves. The saying originates from the days when pirate ships pretended to be a safe and friendly ship by displaying a false flag. Once the victim ship came close, the pirate ship would display their true colors and escape would be too late.

9. Knock on Wood

Almost everyone will knock on wood when they say something they do not want to jinx.  There are many theories as to how this came about. One is that people would go into the forest and knock on wood to hide secrets from any listeners, but this doesnâ??t fit into the reasoning we give it today. Another, more fitting explanation, is that people use to believe that good spirits lived in the trees and knocking on wood would encourage them to answer a personâ??s request.

As you can see from the examples above, most sayings actually have a real origin.  They stuck, most likely, because they are fun to say and make sense in our mind when we say them. And they will surely be around for a long time to come.

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When Bellaisa is not learning about weird sayings, she is a freelance writer and the main writer behind a blog for women.

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  1. Fun post 🙂 My favourite saying from the list is ‘Put a sock in it’ as I’ve always wondered why we sometimes say this and where on earth it came from.

    ‘Bless you’ originates from the Black Death where a sneeze could mean you might be coming down with the disease.

  2. It’s fun learning about how something originated especially idiomatic expressions and sayings. I always use Knock on wood and a long shot. It’s interesting that some of the origins are literally related to the sayings but some are just really weird!

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