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Cliche Sunday

Here we go–the end of the alphabet! Following tradition, I will be doing X, Y, &Z in one lump.  Sadly, the X’s seem nonexistent–which is not truly a surprise.

Now that I have reached the end of the alphabet,  Cliche Sunday is also taking a break. Frankly, my weekends are so very busy, it is hard to get Cliche Sunday out. As you may have noticed by the amount of skipped weeks recently! I do have some ideas for some other serial posts–just not on Sunday 🙂 So stay tuned.

And I am sure there will be a resurgence of Cliche Sunday. Maybe in October?

you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink: people, like horses, will only do what they want, when they want.  This cliché started life as a proverb,  very, very long time ago, which can attest to its popularity. The earliest written copy of it was 1175, in Old English Homilies:

Hwa is thet mei thet hors wettrien the him self nule drinken
[who can give water to the horse that will not drink of its own accord?]

you are what you eat: the idea eating good food is best for you if you want to be healthy. This phrase has been around a bit longer than one might think. I thought its roots was likely to be in the 1970s, when the modern health craze hit.  However, the cliché began in  France in 1826:

Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es. [Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are].
   Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du Gout, ou Meditations de Gastronomie Transcendante

Later, Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach shortened it a bit:

Der Mensch ist, was er ißt. (man is what he eats)
Concerning Spiritualism and Materialism, 1863

The modern iteration of the phrase came to be in the 1920s when Victor Lindlahr came up with the Catabolic  Diet:

  Ninety per cent of the diseases known to man are caused by cheap foodstuffs. You are what you eat.

zero tolerance: a policy that allows no behavior to be overlooked. This has been a popular phrase in schools recently, having a “zero tolerance” for bullying. The cliché actually came out of the American 70s, when it was used to describe police action in areas with specialized high crime–drugs, mugging, prostitution, etc.  It was used more in the 80s during the War on Drugs, and also by the Food and Drug Admin to describe their policy on pesticides allowable in food.

zig-zag: the literal meaning of a series of straight lines joined at angles, used to describe a course of action. The popularity of the term is similar to other phonetically alternated phrases, like see-saw or tick-tock. The origin of this one is not known, although the earliest known  versions are either German or Dutch, suggesting that it came to English second.

“eenige in de voorstad van St. Germain zig zag bewegen  (some in the surburb of St Germain move in zig zag)
Dutch author Roelof Roukema, 1706

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Cliche Sunday

And, on to the V’s! Of course, V is a bit rare, so it will be interesting to see just how many clichés can be found starting V. The site I use actually stuck U and V together, like many file sets do. And the book I use only has one, and it doesn’t even truly start with V– “Violin, to play second.” I think I will skip that one 🙂

veg out: to relax, or, as Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman, to lay like broccoli.  The phrase did come from the 1990s, and while popular in London literary circles during that decade, the earliest version of it can be found in Pretty Woman. The origin is from the idea of people with limited brain capacity as vegetables, lying in bed and unable to do move. Couch Potato has a similar origin.

vicious circle: a self-perpetuating cycle that has no improvement as it circles back to the beginning of the process. This was used as logicians in the 1800s originally as a method of describing a fake philosophies:

A depends on B
B depends on C
C depends on A

The term was picked up for use in the mid 1800s by medical practitioners, and was found first in figurative form in 1892:

The whole situation works in a kind of inevitable rotary way – in what would be called a vicious circle.
                                            Henry James’ Notebooks

vanish into thin air: to disappear, whether it be a person, a wallet, or just that thing you so desperately need to find and were sure you left on the kitchen table. This one is mostly likely a a variation of the phrase Shakespeare used in Othello:

Clown:
Then put up your pipes in your bag, for I’ll away. Go; vanish into air; away!
                                   1602

 verbosity leads to unclear, inarticulate things: literal meaning, and quite timely if you actually listen to our politicians. This quote is attributed to Dan Qualye, President Bush (Sr)’s vice president, who is otherwise best known for his youth and inability to spell the plural of potato. While many politicians do seem to talk in a vicious circle, an excellent demonstration of this phrase is given by Donald Rumsfield:

                      Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.

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Cliche Sunday

I have been a book-a-holic this week. At this moment, I am fighting the urge to put away my laptop and pull out my e-reader. It has been a while since I had a reading frenzy,but once I gave in…… I read six books this past week–or was it seven?

Unfortunately, the rest of my life tends to suffer when I get like this. Especially my blogs. But I am making a concerted effort here to get the ‘T’ clichés in before giving in to my next book.  So here we go:

technicolor yawn: throwing up. I had never heard this one, and thought it, well, colorful until I saw the meaning. Not a fan of vomit; mine, yours or descriptions thereof. However, since I went to the trouble of looking it up….this phrase comes from our friends down under in Australia. It has been around from at least the 1960s, when Barry Humphries used it (fairly gracefully):

When I swallowed the last prawn,
I had a technicolor yawn and I chundered in the old Pacific Sea.
                      A Nice Night’s Entertainment

tall story: a fake, doozy of a story with very little basis in reality. Given our need to exaggerate, there are many names for such  boastful stories–tall talk, tall writing,tall tales, and even Munchausens. Munchausens were named after the Karl Friedrich Hieronymus, Baron von Münchhausen. He was well-known as a “purveyor of extravagantly untruthful stories about himself.”* In America, the stories became a tradition around the campfire, with each storyteller trying to outreach the previous teller, making the tales taller and taller.

that’s all she wrote: an end to one’s plans. While there are a few versions of where this came from, it definitely came from America in the early twentieth century. The first– and unsubstantiated  –version is a Marine during WWII who received a Dear John letter, and told his friends mournfully that she broke up with him and that’s all she wrote. It was definitely used to title  a popular country song by Ernest Tubb in 1942:

I got a letter from my mama, just a line or two
She said listen daddy your good girl’s leavin’ you
That’s all she wrote – didn’t write no more
She’d left the gloom a hanging round my front door.

Although he probably popularised the saying, the first time in print can be found even early, in 1935:

No power except that of the legislature can change the rolls. The assessor-collectors do not have the power, the commissioners’ courts do not have the power. That’s all she wrote and it’s final, the attorney general says in language much more eloquent and technical.
                   Texas newspaper The Brownsville Herald

the bane of my life: the instrument of ruin in one’s life. We often call someone or something the bane of our existence in modern times; such as an annoying coworker or mosquitoes while camping. Bane, however, is a much stronger word than we give it credit for. In Old English, bane actually meant murderer–a much more serious threat. Later bane came to mean anything that might cause death, thus the multitude of plants with ‘bane’ in the name: wolfsbane, hensbane, ratsbane; to name a few. The earliest printed record of this phrase comes from 1592, so we can safely assume that the author was using the phrase with the Old English meaning:

He that like a Lacedemonian, or Romane, accounteth Infamy worse than death, would be loath to emprove his courage, or to employ his patience, in digestinge the pestilent bane of his life.
                     Gabriel Harvey, Foure Letters and certaine Sonnets

To quote Porky Pig, t-th-that’s all folks!

Now, shall I go work in the greenhouse or is it time to read???

 

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Cliche Sunday

Here we are again. Sunday already, after a very long weekend. Am I hedging, to let you know this might be a short post?

Yup, I am! I ran about yesterday doing errands, getting the horses’ manicures, walking the dog and practically steamcleaning the house. Today my husband decided it was time to get out and start the logging for the year. I didn’t complain, since we were cutting down the trees that shade my vegetable garden in the late afternoon.

Image may contain: tree, sky, plant, outdoor and natureThis is before. And yes, I am standing in roughly the same place. Also, look at that 6 foot ladder leaning against the tree we cut down–tree makes it look like a toy, doesn’t it?? Sadly, that tree did not go to plan, but we all walked away–well, except for the tree, that is 😉

Image may contain: tree, outdoor and nature

Anyhoo, on to the reason we are all here-cliches!! And since we are on “Q,” the alphabet is helping me keep this short. Not a lot of “Q’s” out there anyway.

quick and the dead: all souls, living or dead. Many of us are familiar with the phrase from recent movies, particularly westerns. Quick in this application is not referring to speed, but rather the “quick” of life. The first time a baby moves in the womb is called the quickening, while quicksand means that the sand it has life, moving.But the phrase far predates any movies, being first found in the Bible. In the Bible it notes that only the Almighty can judge the quick and the dead–meaning all souls, whether they still live or have passed.

quid pro quo: to do something with the expectation of a favor in return. This cliché is an original Latin version that has become popular, literally meaning “something for something.”  But there are many versions in English as well;

One good turn deserves another.
           H. L’Estrange’s The Reign of King Charles, 1654

Or there is always “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” or even  the basic “I do for you, you do for me.” In recent years, the English versions have been used in many crime movies, giving them a rather Mob flavor. The Latin quid pro quo,however,  being used in law and legal contracts, sounds classier and has become more popular.

quality time: spending time with a neglected child/spouse/friend to make up for the neglect. This is an American phrase with roots in the ’70s.  The family was expanding in the  1970s, with women entering the workforce. The idea of quality time was to ensure that she felt she really could do it all:

How To Be Liberated–

The major goal of each of these role changes is to give a woman time to herself, Ms. Burton explained.”A woman’s right and responsibility is to be self fulfilling,” she said. She gives “quality time” rather than “quantity time” to each task, whether it be writing, cleaning the house or tending the children.
                                           Maryland newspaper The Capital, January 1973

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Cliche Sunday

Spring seems to have sprung in our corner of the world (if you ignore the threat of mixed snow/rain on Tuesday). I couldn’t be happier. We went down to our local flower show today, and I still have the energy and will to write about clichés. How marvelous. Love this time of year! So where were we again?

Oh yes, “P. ” Here we go:

pass the buck: to put the blame on someone else and slough responsibility. So who hasn’t heard this one? I admit, I always thought the “buck” was a dollar, without stopping to think why that would make sense. Are you  paying the next person to take the blame? No, actually, you aren’t. The “buck” is actually an article used during poker. In order to keep a game honest, the tradition of having the deal pass from player to player was formed. The next dealer was given a marker, often a knife, as they were easy to hand. If a player didn’t want to deal, they were allowed to “pass the buck” on to the next person. The nickname “buck” most likely came from the fact that many knives in the late 19th century had buck’s horn handles. The fashion later became given silver dollars as the marker, which is probably how money also became known as “bucks.”

panic stations: a call to alert, often exaggerated; ie: a retail store might call “panic stations” for its employees as it opened the doors on Black Friday. This is a naval phrase, a station being a part of the ship a sailor was assigned to. The Royal Navy, in particular, had several calls to orders; one of which was “action stations” if the ship came under attack.  “Panic stations” was an actual order as well:

Alarm gongs had already sent the guns’ crews to their invisible guns and immediately after the explosion ‘Panic stations’ was ordered, followed in due course by ‘Abandon ship’.
                         Behind the Veil, published in The Times, November 1918

pooped: battered and tired. This phrase also has naval, um, roots. The foredeck of a ship is called the poop deck. As it faces the storms and waves, it is most likely to be battered and worn during a tough journey. The damage was called “pooped,” and sailors took that phrase home with them. They would say they were “pooped” like the ship when they were exhausted. The colorfulness of the phrase took hold, and was used on land almost more than on the waves.

pulling strings: to manipulate a situation to one’s benefit. This term, of course, comes from puppeteering. While everyone is entertained by the puppets on the stage, they all know that there is someone backstage choreographing the activity. An excellent puppeteer can give a flawless performance and no one will pay attention to him being backstage.

play ducks and drakes: to squander your money. Ducks and Drakes is the official name for the old-fashioned skipping of stones across water. It was given that name as a properly skipped stone looked like a fowl rising from the water. But even the best skipper can fail to get a run across the water, and all eventually lose speed and drop beneath the water. Therefore, a person who suddenly has an abundance of money, and enjoys it quickly, can be said to be playing “ducks and drakes” with his money.  The phrase itself it old, first being found in The Nomenclator, or Remembrancer of Adrianus Junius:

a kind of sport or play with an oister shell or stone throwne into the water, and making circles yer it sinke….It is called a ducke and a drake, and a halfe-penie cake
       Hong Higgins, 1584

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Cliche Sunday

Oh, it is time for ‘O’s!

on the nail: one has hit the meaning on the head. This came about as a monetary phrase, meaning ‘spot cash’ (paying at the time). The origin seems a bit uncertain, as both the Dutch and the Germans also use this phrase. It is also referenced in a Scottish deed from 1326. Ireland has some claim to it, as well, as there was a pillar in Limerick that was topped with a copper plate under the Exchange. The pillar was called “The Nail” and a buyer would place his money on the copper plate. It seems more likely that the pillar was named after the cliché than that the cliché came from the pillar, based on the timeline.

one horse town: a town so sleepy and lifeless that one horse might do all the work. I admit, I thought this might have been said of a town that could afford one horse. I don’t suppose it makes much difference. The phrase is definitely an Americanism, and is thought to have originated in New Orleans. The popularity of the cliché didn’t spread until it reached Boston, where it  expanded quickly.

on the bubble: on the edge, particularly for sporting events-one may make the cut, but could still be pushed out if a following competitor does better. This phrase definitely comes from the American car racing.  Indy 500 reporters in 1970 used the term:

On the ‘bubble’ is rookie Steve Krisiloff whose 162.448 m.p.h. was the slowest qualifying speed last weekend. With only six spots open, Krisiloff’s machine would be ousted if seven cars qualified at a faster speed this week end.
                                –The Lima News, May 1970

on the quiet: also known as “qt” or “down low”, meaning to keep something secret to the benefit of all. The phrase, although popular in American culture in the last decades, is more likely to be a British saying. The phrase is also older than one might expect given its recent popularity,  with the first written  record is from 1862:

Unless men can work [the gold] on ‘the quiet’, they are not likely to make ‘piles’ so rapidly as Messrs. Hartley and Riley.
Otago: Goldfields & Resources

I will finish with a classic phrase, both in gravity and origin:

once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more: we must try yet again, despite overwhelming odds.  This is a rallying cry from Henry V, Act III, 1598, in which Henry was exhorting his Army to break through gap in the wall surrounding the city of Harfleur, which was under siege by the English.

      Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
      Or close the wall up with our English dead.
     In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
     As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
   Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O’erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill’d with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noblest English.
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!
Fathers that, like so many Alexanders,
Have in these parts from morn till even fought
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument:
Dishonour not your mothers; now attest
That those whom you call’d fathers did beget you.
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war. And you, good yeoman,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture; let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game’s afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’
     –Shakespeare,  King Henry V, 1598

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Cliche Sunday…

….has returned. Were you wondering if I forgot last Sunday? I didn’t but with the time change and all the work I did around the house (which resulted in me icing my knee as I may overdone just a bit), I was in no shape to write a post. My brain felt like mush.

So here we are this week, with exciting ‘N’ cliches-because, you know, nothing ventured, nothing gained!

not dry behind the ears: as unsophisticated and uncomplicated as a baby. I haven’t heard this one much recently, but I did hear it quite a bit while growing up. It came directly from the farm, an American farm at that. The phrase, of course, refers to newborn calves/sheep, whose ears take a while to dry out. The phrase hasn’t been used in literature all that much, making it harder to track its date of origin. It seems to have appeared in the American countryside sometime mid-nineteenth century.

neither fish nor flesh, nor good red herring: a deliberate ploy to divert attention from an issue. I have also heard “neither fish nor fowl,” with no mention of the red herring. The red herring, of course, is a classic cliché meaning a false trail, used in countless thrillers and mysteries. Meanwhile, I believe many an American politician in the recent election demonstrated this cliché beautifully.The phrase itself is not recent, being first found in 1546:

She is nother fyshe nor fleshe, nor good red hearyng
A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue, John Heyword

neither here nor there: of no consequence to the argument at hand. I have always rather disliked this phrase, as no matter how cogent your argument is, your opponent will very smugly say “that might  be, but it is neither here nor there.” Blech. And it has been around annoying many others for a long time: it was first found in Arthur Golding’s translation of The sermons of J. Calvin upon Deuteronomie, 1583.

nine days wonder: something that will lose its fresh appeal very quickly. This phrase’s history comes from a Shakespearean actor. William Kemp, who is thought to have played Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing (1599), became famous for dancing a Morris dance* from London to Norwich.  Although he won a bet for this, many doubted he actually covered the hundred (ish) miles in nine days, dancing or not. To prove his side of the story, Kemp wrote  ‘Kemps nine daies vvonder,’ which was published in 1600. This cliché itself is certainly not a nine days wonder!

and, of course,

nothing ventured, nothing gained: without a risk, nothing can be won. This was a favorite phrase of Benjamin Franklin. He didn’t create it, however, as it predates Franklin by three centuries. It can first be found in print in 1374 in Chaucer’s in The Reeve’s Tale:

John lies still for a short time, feeling sorry for himself.
“Alas,” he says, “this is a cruel joke; now I can see that I am the only fool here.
My colleague is getting compensation for his grievance; he has the miller’s daughter in his arms. He has taken a chance, and fulfilled his needs, while I lie like a sack of rubbish in my bed.
And when this joke is told one day, I shall be considered an ass, a weakling!
I will arise and take a chance, too, by my faith! Nothing ventured, nothing gained, or so men say.”

*don’t know what a Morris dance is? Neither did I. According to Wikipedia:

“Morris dance is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers.”

 

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Cliche Sunday

Alrighty, tonight we are moving on to “M”s!

may you live in interesting times: while this sounds friendly, it is more of a curse. “interesting times” are really only those of turmoil, and most people would rather live in peace and prosperity. This also sounds as if it is an ancient curse, but it is actually fairly recent. Although it was mentioned by Frederic R Coudert at the Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science (1939) in his opening speech where he says that Sir Austen Chamberlain told him that he heard the phrase from a Chinese diplomat. Chamberlain had never been to China, however, so this provence of the cliché may not be accurate. It was definitely used by Robert Kenndey, however, in 1966:

There is a Chinese curse which says ‘May he live in interesting times.’ Like it or not we live in interesting times. They are times of danger and uncertainty; but they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history.

mare’s nest: an exciting discovery is later shown to be false. This could be because a mare’s nest would be unusual and impossible to find, or that such situations that mare’s nest would be called would also convoluted and a mess. The first meaning  is quite old, and usually refered to a humourous situation:

                  Why dost thou laugh? What Mares nest hast thou found?
                                     John Fletcher’s  Bonduca, circa 1613

It was in the 1920s that the second meaning was used, and probably came out of “a rat’s nest.”

method to the madness: the reason behind apparent disorder or incomprehension. Another of Shakespeare’s inventions, this one from Hamlet:

LORD POLONIUS [Aside]:
Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t. Will you walk out of the air, my lord?

milk of human kindness: care and compassion for others. And yet another from Shakespeare:

                Yet doe I feare thy Nature, It is too full o’ th’ Milke of humane kindnesse.
MacBeth 1605

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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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Cliche Sunday

Ok, so I lied last week. I never got around to putting out last week’s clichés. Besides the utter excitement of the Patriots remembering suddenly that they were in a Super Bowl and kicking butt, I have no real excuse.

But I am here for the “J’s”. I am actually quite curious to see what I can find, as phrases starting with J do not immediately leap to my mind.

jack palancing: dancing. Now, I had to pick this one because of the actor Jack Palance. I ran across him first in Tango and Cash as the bad guy. My mother says I missed out on his heyday as bad guys, that he used to drip menace just by breathing. So imagine my surprise to find that Jack Palancing actually means dancing. I had something more vicious in mind. I don’t actually see any connection to him originally, as this phrase was part of Irish “rhyming” slang, where as long as it rhymed it needed no other connection to what the phrase indicated. I do have a theory, however, that the meaning of the phrase may be why Jack picked that name. He was born Volodymyr Palahniuk in Pennsylvania. After a number of stage names, he settled on Jack Palance. And proceeded to dance through many westerns as ultimate evil.

jack in the box: the toy that many of us are familiar with, consisting of a box with a doll inside the pops out on a coiled spring when the box opens. As a toy, one could consider a jack in the box innocent fun. As long as one does not fear clowns of course–coulrophobic, that is. The phrase, however, far predates the actual toy and was not terribly complementary in origin.

[There are] railyng bils against the Lords supper, terming it Jack of the boxe, the sacrament of the halter, round Robin, with like unsemely termes.
         John Foxe’s Actes & Monuments, 1563

It was also used as a term to mean a swindler in the sixteenth century, as well as fireworks in the early seventeenth century. It was in 1702 that the meaning that we are familiar with was first used:

Up started every one in his seat, like a Jack in a box…
             Infernal Wanderer

Eventually, someone figured out how to make the phrase into a toy.

the jury is still out: being undecided, particularly if more information is needed. I picked this one because, although it was a bit before my time, this phrase was used often in my parents house. It was a bit before their time as well, as the original jury was in 1850. It was part of a famous trial of Asa Gardiner, a public official accused of ” Misuse and abuse of official power; Neglect of duty; Unfitness for office; Wrongful acts.”  The New York Daily Times printed the headline:
    The [Gardiner Trial] Jury are still out, with no prospect of immediate agreement.

The phrase caught on, and is still popular today.

jump the gun: to start something before preparations are done. Another phrase I heard a lot growing up. Who knew my family was so into phrases starting with J? This phrase became popular in the early twentieth century.  Previous incarnations were “jump ship” and “jump a claim.” The gun became part of the phrase when starter pistols were used for races on tracks, and had quite literal meaning:

False starts were rarely penalized, the pistol generally followed immediately on the signal “Get set!” and so shiftless were the starters and officials that “beating the pistol” was one of the tricks which less sportsmanlike runners constantly practised.
                                      Rowing and Track Athletics, 1905

 

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