The Interesting Origins Of 7 Common English Idioms
Ever wondered where some ever-present idioms originated from in the English language? We’ve researched the interesting origins of common English idioms and traced back their fascinating and sometimes bizarre history:
“Always a bridesmaid, never a bride”
“Pull someone’s leg”
Definition: Joking or fooling with someone.
Origin: To pull someone’s leg had much more sinister overtones when it first came in use. It was originally a method used by thieves to entrap their pedestrians and subsequently rob them. One thief would be assigned ‘tripper up’ duty, and would use different instruments to knock the person to the ground. Luckily, these days the saying is much more friendlier, though being on the end of a joke might not always be fun.
“Meeting a deadline”
Definition: To finish something by a predetermined time.
Origin: This saying apparently stems from the prison camps during the Civil War, where a line was drawn to demarcate the boundaries for the prisoners. The line became to be known as a deadline because any prisoner who attempted to cross it was shot.
Definition: Someone who is unhinged.
Origin: According to undetermined reports, WW1 soldiers who had lost all their limbs were carried around in baskets. The actual term, ‘basket case’, however was coined by the US military – in denial of this practice – after WW1. In 1919, a bulletin was issued by the U.S. Command on Public Information, making use of the phrase:
“The Surgeon General of the Army … denies … that there is any foundation for the stories that have been circulated … of the existence of ‘basket cases’ in our hospitals.”
“Close, but no cigar”
Definition: Being near success, but just missing out.
“Bust your balls”
Definition: A slang term which can refer to a form of punishment, working hard, or being harassed or teased.
Origin: Believe it or not, the term actually comes from literally busting the balls of a calf. Rather than cutting them off or chemically sterilizing them, a method was developed to literally break a calf’s testicles to turn them from a bull to a steer. Thankfully, only the figurative version is used by humans.
“Bark up the wrong tree”