Common Saying | Intrigue | Interesting Sayings | common phrases | Belware | Belware.co.uk
How many of these 5 common sayings did you know the meaning to? By Belware Team
Sayings and idioms have been an integral part of the English language for a long time, but most
people don’t know what they really mean or where they come from. Here are 5 of the most interesting
sayings we could find and why they were first coined.
Tell us how many you already knew in the comments section below!
1) The graveyard shift
There are theories that this saying is purely evocative, in that it was only meant to depict the
sombre ambience of the night shift. But, other sources suggest that its meaning is far more haunting
and literal. The popular consensus appears to be that it is derived from an old English occupation of a
night-time graveyard watcher. If you’ve not heard of this interpretation, you may be wondering why a
graveyard would need to be watched at all. Well, apparently, a few centuries ago in England, where it was
apparently common for once buried coffins to be dug up to make room for the newly dead, reports of the
inside lids of coffins being laden with ferocious scratch marks had emerged. This, ultimately,
led to one conclusion - that people had been buried alive!
In order to combat this ‘issue’, the dead were outfitted with a length of string, with one end being
attached to the persons hand or foot and the other attached to a bell. When someone was buried, thereafter,
the string would be fed from the buried corpse inside the coffin, up through the ground and to the bell,
which was suspended above the ground. In order to monitor any bell ringing in the graveyard,
night-time watchmen were employed to sit in the graveyard all night long – listening tentatively for
the possible chime of the undead!
2) Mad as a Hatter
I bet you think you already know the answer to this one…well, hold onto your hat.
To be mad as a hatter is to be completely bonkers, quite a bit silly and not at all normal. Many people
believe that this delightful little simile comes from the 19th Century family classic Alice’s Adventures
in Wonderland by Lews Carroll (aka Alice in Wonderland). But, both the expression and the Hatter from Alice’s
Adventures in Wonderland were born of the poisoning experienced by hatters (or hat makers) in the Georgian era
, due to their use of Mercury (Mercurous Nitrate), in the making of hats.
3) Running amok
Most of us will remember this one – not least for its popular use by high school
dictators…I mean teachers. It refers to someone, or a group of people, acting wildly.
But do you know where the term comes from?
Amok is actually derived from the Malaysian word ‘Amoq’ – a word that used to describe tribesman
that became scarily mad and outwardly destructive when under the influence of opium. We didn’t have
opium in high school. It wouldn’t have been appropriate.
4) Show someone the ropes
To show someone the ropes is to show them how things are done, right? It’s a common phrase used today,
particularly in trade industries where the training of apprentices is routine.
Some people think this phrase has its origins in the world of boxing. But, the term actually comes from sailing
(penny drops), where knowing how to handle the ropes for the sails was an important skill of crew members.
5) Pleased as Punch
Some of us may have figured this one out on our own (myself included), but for those with better things to do
(not myself included), here is the truth behind the mystery. Drumroll…..
You remember the antics of the famous 17th century puppet bully, Punch, don’t you? If not, then all you need
to know to work this one out is that Punch, aside from being a little sod, took pleasure in hurting people
(i.e. bludgeoning them to death with a stick!). The idea behind the expression is that Punch was regularly pleased
with the mischief he’d caused. And so….pleased as Punch!