I have been watching the Olympics every free moment this week.. I DVR them during the day and avoid the news until I can watch them. I believe I can blame this on my father, as they Olympics were always on in the house while I was growing up. I am watching Saturday’s beach volleyball as I type. So today I thought I would do an “Olympic” version of Cliche Sunday.
know the ropes: to know how things are done in a certain situation. Much has been made of the veteran athletes returning to the Olympics this year, and what they can teach the younger competitors. This phrase is of seafaring origin, going back to sailing ships with ropes going every which way from sails and the mast. Older sailors helped with newer ones with “learning the ropes,” as all the lines could be overly confusing. Once experienced, they could be said to “know the ropes.”
keep a stiff upper lip: to show little or no emotion in distressing situations. Any Olympic athlete knows this one, particularly after giving a sub par performance. But most of the world thinks of this one as British. And they would be right! British soldiers kept their mustaches trimmed and waxed, but still they moved when standing at attention. Considering this undisciplined, drill sergeants ordered their men to keep a “stiff upper lip.”
nothing to sneeze at: something is worth taking note of. Even though a Silver or Bronze medal isn’t a Gold, it still isn’t anything to sneeze at! A lot of work goes into winning any sort of Olympic medal–or even getting to the Olympics! This particular phrase goes back to the upper class in the 1800s, who thought sneezing a good way to clear their minds; so they carried snuff boxes with herbs that would make them sneeze when they put a pinch in their nose. Eventually, sneezing became a way to express boredom, if the conversation wasn’t exciting, they would turn to the snuff-box to make themselves sneeze.
pipe dream: an idea that seems unique or unreachable. Many Olympians were told their ideas of pursuing an Olympic path was, in fact, a “pipe dream.” And many of them proved the naysayers wrong. The beginning of this phrase was less than Olympic, however, as it comes from the pipes used to smoke opium. Those who smoked from the pipes often entered into a “dream-like” state, and had rather unusual ideas–“pipe dreams.”
some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them: means exactly what it says! And I don’t believe I have to explain how the Olympics might just be related to this one 🙂 So on to the origin:
In my stars I am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em
Shakespeare, Twelfth Night
And, look, we made it back to my bard obsession.