We say a lot of different phrases in our day to day life and most honestly don’t know the meaning of them. For example: When someone is grumpy, people say they got out of the wrong side of the bed. What does that truely mean? Well I looked it up.
Get out of bed on the wrong side – be bad tempered, grumpy
The wrong side of the bed is the left. According to a superstition that goes back to Roman times, it is unlucky to get out of bed on the left side because that is where evil spirits dwell and to do so means their influence will then be with you through your waking hours. Naturally, if one is expecting to suffer the whim of malevolent spirits by inadvertently getting out on the wrong side of a bed, they cannot be blamed for being a little grumpy.
Then this got me wondering and reseaching a few other phases and here are a few I would like to share:
Face the music – face the consequences of one’s actions, especially punishment
In the mid-19th century this meant to meet a test without flinching; the modern sense emerged over half a century later. The origin is almost certainly military, either from forcing a cavalry horse to face the regimental band to accustom it to the noise, or from formally expelling a disgraced soldier to the beat of drums.
Eat your heart out
The ancients believed that sorrow or envy were bad for the heart, and would eat away at it, each sigh draining blood from the organ. This idea made its way to England and became well established – Shakespeare often refers to it, as in, ‘Might liquid tears, of heart-offending groans, / Or blood-consuming sighs recall his life, / I would be blind with weeping, sick with groans, / Look pale as primrose with blood-drinking sighs’ (Henry VI, part 2, III.ii). We still describe someone as broken-hearted by grief. By the beginning of the 20th century, to eat your heart out was well-established as a term for pining; but more recently, it has also been used as a cry of triumph when someone else has cause to envy the speaker.
Wild-goose chase – hopeless or foolish quest or pursuit of something unattainable or never found
A chase in the manner of a wild goose, not a wild chase after a goose (i.e. ‘wild goose-chase’) which the normal pronunciation implies.
…In the 16th century, wild-goose chase was the name given to a sort of cross-country horse-race; it was so called because the participants had to follow the course of the leader, as a flight of wild geese does. The basic idea is therefore that of a pursuit over an erratic course.
At the eleventh hour – at the very last moment
An allusion to the parable of the labourers in the vineyard who were hired literally ‘at the eleventh hour’ of a 12-hour working day (Matthew, 20: 1-16). This was not actually ‘at the very last moment’ but the point of the parable is that it was certainly later than the hour at which the other labourers were hired, and the result was a demand that those who had worked less should be paid less. The modern meaning comes from this sense of comparison between the eleventh hour and earlier ones.
Pipe down – stop talking
In nautical language this was a command given on a bosun’s pipe, last thing at night, for silence and lights-out.
Out on a limb – in an exposed and precarious position
Limb has long been standard English for a main branch of a tree, though it is little used in that sense. American English has retained the use of the word, however, and has recently (about 1945, perhaps from infiltration by American servicemen’s vocabulary) exported the idea of someone being out on a limb, i.e. at the end of a branch, unable to go any further or at risk of having his position collapse under him.
X marks the spot
A cliché from the earliest days of newspaper photography where the scene of the crime would be shown with an X to mark where the deed was done. It goes back even further in romantic accounts of such things as pirate treasure maps. The expression was being used jokingly by the 1920s, and now can be found as a formula phrase.