Not knowing what to pick as a theme this week, I went to my favorite site, phrases. org.uk. I used the eeny-meeny-miny-mo method to pick a letter of the alphabet and came up with ‘O’. And still I came up with Shakespearean clichés. Oh, my!
off with his head: literally, to chop off his head. Or used to reproach someone in a joking manner. While many of us know this from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, it was another bloodthirsty queen from Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part III who said it first:
Off with his head, and set it on York gates;
So York may overlook the town of York.
oh, my stars and garters: an expression of astonishment. Coming from Britain, this one has a rather varied past. The “stars,” of course, mean actual astrological bodies; and “my stars” means one’s personal Zodiac signs and one’s corresponding position in life. The “garters” comes directly from chivalry. The highest heraldic order receivable in Britain is the “Noble Order of the Garter.” Stars and garters put together in slang meant the trappings of high office, as well as the people in said office.Eventually it became a humorous exclamation of astonishment:
Supper at such an hour!
My stars and garters! who would be,
To have such guests, a landlady
A Journey to Oxford, 1765
Ups a daisy: a saying for picking a child up after a fall to encourage them to keep going, or when swinging a child in play. This one has many forms and spellings, from oops a daisy and upsa daesy to upsidaisy. It was first found in print by Johnathon Swift, who was remarking on someone lazy:
Come stand away, let me rise… Is there a good fire? – So – up a-dazy.
Ups a daisy also was a basis for the word “lackadaisical.” It’s roots can be traced, as with so many things in the English language, to Shakespeare:
Shee’s dead, deceast, shee’s dead: alacke the day!
Romeo & Juliet, 1592
odd’s bodkins: God’s body, an oath. A bodkin is a small tool with a sharp end for piercing leather and other tough materials. It was mostly chosen for its alliteration to body, as “odd” was picked for its alliteration to God. This became an acceptable curse for those of religious backgrounds. Unless one is Shakespeare, then one would just come out and use the original:
God’s body! the turkeys in my pannier are quite starved
Henry IV Part II, 1597