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  • Everyone deserves a ‘red letter day’

Everyone deserves a ‘red letter day’

on Wednesday, 13 January 2016. Posted in Columns, Opinions

I found these familiar phrases and their origins on Little Known Facts website. I hope you enjoy.

Called on the Carpet – When one is reprimanded by a superior. In the 19th century, carpets were very expensive, as a result, usually, only the boss’s office was carpeted. When employees were ‘called on the carpet,’ it meant the boss wanted to see them – which frequently meant they were in trouble.

One Fell Swoop means ‘all at once.’ It has nothing to do with falling. Fell comes from the old English word ‘fel’ which means cruel, deadly or ruthless and is also the root of the word felon. The expression “one fell swoop” first appeared in Macbeth, when Shakespeare compares the sudden death of a character to an eagle swooping down on some chickens and carrying them off.

Sight for Sore Eyes refers to a ‘welcome sight.’ According to ancient superstition, unpleasant sights could make eyes sore and pleasant sights made sore eyes feel better.

Have Your Work Cut Out for You means ‘having a difficult task ahead.’ The term refers to a pattern cut from a cloth that must be then made into a garment. When the easier task of cutting out the cloth is finished, the more difficult job of sewing the garment is still left to do.

That’s a Load of Bull - meaning ‘a lie or exaggeration.’ The origin is not in the cow chips. ‘Boule’ is an Old French verb meaning ‘to lie.’

My Better Half referring to a spouse. The Puritan view of people was that we’re made up of two halves; a body and a soul. The soul, our spiritual side was considered our better half. In the 16th century, the English writer Sir Philip Sidney became the first person to apply the term to the union between married people. By the 18th century, his use of the expression had become common.

Red-Letter Day refers to a ‘special occasion day.’ The old Christian church of the Middle Ages had feast days, saint days and other holy days, and those special days were printed on a calendar in red ink. For everything else, black ink was used.

Clap-Trap refers to empty speech or nonsense. Claptrap comes from the theater. It describes any line that the playwright inserts (often knowing it’s terrible) just to get applause. It’s literally a trap to catch clap.

If You Can Do It, I’ll Eat My Hat! means ‘I don’t believe you can do it.’ The original word hat in this expression was ‘hatte’ which is actually an Old English dish of eggs, veal, dates and salt. Over time the meaning of the phrase evolved into the ridiculous proposition it sounds like.

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