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Archive for the 'English Language' Category

He’s as mad as a hatter!

Posted by Gregov on 6th March 2008

mad as a hatter – This phrase comes from the days when felt hats were made using a mercury on some cheaper furs, that caused the hatter to go mad, thus the "mad hatter" in Alice In Wonderland. Mercury poisoning caused tremors, brain damage, tooth loss, slurred speech, and more. A "mad hatter" was one to be avoided. I think the lesson to be learned is 1) don’t make your own hats and 2) don’t use mercury!

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Be careful, you might get the wrong end of the stick…

Posted by Gregov on 5th March 2008

wrong end of the stick -If you imaged the most disgusting origin then you were right! I’ve heard two explanations that vary slightly. One comes from the outhouse days when there were no flushing toilets and the other dates back much earlier, to the days of the Roman baths. Regardless, the outcome was the same! The person in the next stall may have asked for their neighbor to "pass the stick," instead of toilet paper since that was yet to exist. The stick had a sponge on one end and if the recipient grabbed the wrong end, they’d be getting the wrong end of the stick. Most definitely unpleasant!

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Should I use an upper case letter for the heading?

Posted by Gregov on 4th March 2008

upper and lower case letters – I’ve heard that the term started when letters were hand carved out of wood and were then laid out to be type set. The letters were kept on a two shelves in the work space…the big letters, or the upper case ones were kept on the top or "upper" shelf and the small or lower case letters were kept on the "lower" shelf to make it easy for the printer to keep things organized.

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He is really a good Samaritan!

Posted by Gregov on 3rd March 2008

Good Samaritan – comes from from the Bible (Luke 10:30-33), in which Jesus tells the parable of a priest who passes by a man in need of help, laying on the ground. A Samaritan, who was part of the enemy tribe, helps the man up and back to health when the priest does not…the message being that you should treat your enemy with the same good respect as your friend. Other meanings can also be extracted, such as the golden rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated, and so on.

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I would like to propose a toast!

Posted by Gregov on 2nd March 2008

to propose a toast – This often used phrase comes from an 18th century punch bowl drink made with cider, cinnamon, cloves, and other spices and garnished with pieces of toast that would float on top. I’m unsure of the purpose of the toast and can’t imagine a burnt piece of bread being "decorative," but next New Years Eve, don’t forget to include the toast!

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The rule of thumb is…

Posted by Gregov on 1st March 2008

rule of thumb -No, this phrase is definitely NOT "P.C"! Who knew? "Rule of thumb" derived from the days when woman were sometimes beaten with a switch. To be "kind" the switch could not be thicker than a thumb’s width. This was made law in 1782 when an English judge stated that men were allowed to beat their wives but that the stick could not be thicker than one’s thumb.

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