Cliche Sunday

hmmm, so where are we? Ah, yes, ‘L.’ So we are halfway through the alphabet now. Whatever shall we do when we get to ‘Z?’ Ooh, I wonder what clichés start with ‘Z’–Zebras? Well, we will get there soon enough. On to the ‘L’s–

ladies room: a nice way of saying one has to get the toilet. There are many, many ways of saying this-rest rooms, little girls rooms, facilities, etc, etc. Ladies rooms did originally refer to the toilet. A lady’s room was a cloak room with an area to check one’s appearance, and was first used the eighteenth century.  A popular way to describe the bathroom in public areas was to call it the lavatory at that time. Even lavatory is an euphemism, as the word is latin for a place to wash clothes.

‘L’s for the animal lovers–

let the cat out of the bag: to let out a secret.  This most likely came from the dubious practice of selling a cat in a bag whilst calling it a pig for supper. If one opened the bag and let the cat out, so was the secret. This practice is referenced in many countries, including America, England, Germany and a Dutch version.  Another theory is that it is a reference to a cat-o-nine-tails. Often used on shipping vessels as punishment, the tails left marks on sailor’s backs like a cat, and were supposedly kept in bags when not in use. This idea, however, does not seem as logical as the first theory.

let sleeping dogs lie:don’t mess with a situation that is already under control. A dog, woken up suddenly, can often act unpredictably. The general populace seems to have decided it is better to let them wake up naturally, to the point of coining a phrase. The first written example of this was in 1380 by Chaucer:

                      It is nought good a slepyng hound to wake.
                                            Troilus and Criseyde

The phrase has lasted eight centuries, which seems to indicate that one should, indeed, leave a sleeping dog alone.

a little bird told me: a secret source divulged a secret. While happily used by Shakespeare and other authors, the idea of a feathered messenger most likely came from the King James version of the Bible:

Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.
              Ecclesiastes 10-20

and–

last but not least: that the last item is just as important as the first. I have used this phrase many a time myself, and never realized that this came from theatrical tradition. When introducing actors at a play,  the phrase was often used to ensure the last actor did not feel slighted. This may have been inspired by the Bible (Matthew 19:32) but the first time the phrase was found in print was 1580:

I have heard oftentimes that in love there are three things for to be used: if time serve, violence, if wealth be great, gold, if necessity compel, sorcery. But of these three but one can stand me in stead – the last, but not the least
    Euphues and His England, John Lyly

 

 

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1 Comment

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One response to “Cliche Sunday

  1. Lovely Ls Samantha – let the cat out of the bag being my favourite. ‘A pig in a poke’ has a similar origin, that supposed pig always hidden in a bag!

    Liked by 1 person

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