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Why Do We Say That?
By Sarah Lane, Cynthia Kirkeby
Jan 21, 2008, 16:15 PST

This site must have been where this came from

Why Do We Say That?

Have you ever used the saying ‘wet your whistle’ or even ‘mind your P’s and Q’s’?  Ever wonder where those sayings and others like them come from?  So did we.  We’ve put together a fun list of interesting tidbits to ‘tickle your fancy.’  If you have any you’d like to add to the list, or have a better example of how a saying or word came about, e-mail us and we’d be happy to share them with our readers!




There are several different opinions of how this phrase came about but the most plausible version has northern European roots.  It was thought that if newlyweds drank mead (a wine made from honey) every evening for one month (the cycle of one moon) they would surely have a male heir in that year.  They drank the mead out of a ‘Mazer Cup’ that they’d pass on to the next generation.  That one-month period is called the ‘honeymoon.’



This saying supposedly came from an English pub.  A whistle was baked right into the rim of a ceramic beer mug.  The crowd would get loud and it became hard for the bartender to hear people ordering drinks.  They would then blow the whistle for another drink in order to ‘wet their whistle.’



During Medieval times bacon was very expensive to buy. When you did get some, it was customary to display or store it over the fireplace in the parlor.  When important guests came over, it would be taken down and chewed during conversation.  People would ‘sit around and chew the fat.’



In England during hay pitching season, workers would have allergic reactions to the hay which would often times lead to a fever.  They began to refer to the symptoms as ‘hay fever.’



Mattresses were originally pulled tight with ropes woven through the bed frame.  A key was then used to periodically tighten the rope.  This could very well have led to ‘sleep tight’ but many people disagree.  ‘Tight’ means sound or healthy, which would explain the usage as well.  Still others believe that ‘tight’ came along to rhyme with ‘good night,’ or ‘wake bright,’ or even ‘bed bugs bite’!



There are two explanations for this saying.  The first is from England where, once again, we gather in a pub.  Ale was ordered in pints and quarts and when the crowd got rowdy, the bartender would tell them to ‘mind their p’s and q’s.’  The other plausible explanation is that the letters p & q are easily reversible.  When a printer was running a press, the boss would tell him to ‘mind his p’s and q’s.’



This saying came about when people used to hunt game.  The birds were chased and scared out of their hiding place, normally a bush.  They were then captured and killed.  We now say don’t ‘beat around the bush’ meaning don’t procrastinate like the birds did when they hid.



It was either during the restructuring of a gravesite or the fact that people who were thought to be dead were waking up during funerals that led to the discovery of the coma.  Scratch marks were found on the underside of some coffins and fear of burying someone alive led to the tying a string to the “dead” person’s wrist.  The string was attached to a nearby tree and bell.  If they woke up and rang the bell, they were saved. 




Tables in the past had only one finished side.  The family, to preserve the nice side, used the rough underside.  When company would come over the whole top lifted off and the finished side was shown.  Families would ‘turn the table’.



This saying dates back to 1910 and it means without preparation.  In 1922 it began to be associated with a withdrawal from an addictive substance (usually drugs).  Cold turkey takes almost no preparation in the kitchen and so ‘cold turkey’ meant doing something suddenly.

Source:     Back-Roads Touring Co. Ltd.,, Word Origins & David Wilton, Fun, Dr. Fun Hyun Hong,


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