Musings On Nothing Relevant

One of my teachers from childhood told me this story and I remember it often:

One night at the dinner table a husband asks his wife why she always cuts the roast in half and only cooks half at a time.  The wife thinks about this and says, “That’s the way my mother always did it.”  She thinks about this and decides to find out why.  She calls her mother and asks her the same question.  Her mother answers, “I do it that way because that’s the way my mother did it.”  Now mom is curious so she calls her mother and asks why she always cut the roast in half and only cooked half at a time.  Her mother replies, “I did it that way because my roasting pan was too small to fit the whole roast!” 

We often get in the habit of doing things and never really question why.  When the light bulb goes off over our head, it sometimes gets hilarious.  Think about the things you do out of habit.  You might just get a laugh when you find out the origin of the habit.

Which brings me to the next part of my post:  The origin of phrases we use everyday, but have no idea where they came from or what they really mean/meant. I found two really great websites that give the origin of phrases and words.  I’ll list them at the bottom of the post.  For now, let’s look at a few of the common phrases we use everyday but never question.

The quick and the dead:  This phrase didn’t start out meaning “fast and dead”, which was made popular by the Sharon Stone movie of the same name.  Quick means alive.  So the phrase means “the living and the dead”.  You can click on either of the links and find a more complete explanation.

Three sheets in the wind:  We use this phrase to mean blind, stumbling drunk.  It’s a nautical term.  The sheets aren’t the sails, which is what I thought.  The sheets are the ropes or chains that secure the sail in place.  If three of the sheets are loose and blowing in the wind the sail will flap and move like a drunken sailor. 

Tit for Tat:  This phrase is used to mean returning slight for slight or returning in kind what we have been given, usually something bad.  It was originally spelled “tip for tap” as in blow for blow.  The spelling was changed to tit for tat. 

The websites that gave me the explanations for these phrases have a blue million more as well.

The Phrase Finder is here:

Word Origins is here:

These sites are interesting and informative and will be a total time suck if you’re like me and can’t get enough of explanations for things.


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