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zrs70
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Origins Of Common Expressions

Mon Feb 08, 2016 7:51 am

I always find word/expression origins interesting. Here are. Handful:

posh: it men's fancy, right? But my understanding is that it come from a acronym, "portside over, starboard home." We rich people travelled by boat from Europe to india,they wanted to be on the port side of the boat on outbound, as the sun wouldn't to their skin on that side as much (back then, tan was considered uncouth).

Knock on wood: comes from knocking on the wood of the cross (of Jesus). I find it interesting when those who aren't Christian use the expression.

What light can others shed?

[Edited 2016-02-08 00:02:38]
 
WIederling
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Mon Feb 08, 2016 8:56 am

Quoting zrs70 (Thread starter):
Knock on wood

It probably is less christian than you think:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knocking_on_wood

IMU most things like that are archaic.
But some religions try to usurp more than others.
Look at the major christian festivities that often overlayed established holy days.

Another explanation that was given to me on wood knocking:
Testing if the ship you are going to sail with is of sound wood.
( probably similar for other items made from wood.)
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:54 pm

One of my favourites was 'Can't see the wood for the trees.' Applying to people who plunged into detail at every business meeting, instead of trying to solve the bigger problem once and for all.
 
WIederling
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:00 pm

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 2):

With a hammer in hand every problem is a nail.
caveat:
with a gun in hand a lot of problems will not succumb by being shot at.
 
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LAX772LR
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 09, 2016 6:52 am

Some have evolved beyond their racist/sexist origins, to become part of the common lexicon... such that many people nowadays have no idea how reviling they once were.

Here's two classic examples:

1) Eeny Meeny Miny Moe
The original four words began in the early 1800s, as a small part of a derogatory chant sang by NYC children to describe immigrants of German or Polish descent. As its use migrated to the south, it took on a whole new meaning entirely-- becaming part of a tutorial on the sale value of slave children. The original rhyme was:
Eeny Meeny Miny Moe,
Catch a n*gger by his toe,
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny Meeny Miny Moe.
Basically, the objective was to physically harass a small slave child, and see how s/he handles it. If they cried, or attempted to use their mothers as shields, then they were not mature enough to be sold separately from their mother without using another slave to dry nurse them-- which lowered their value. If however, they sat there an took the punishment without much objection, then they were of higher sell value as children.
Of course nowadays, it's been sanitized into a nursery rhyme that doesn't mean much of anything, with the racial expletive replaced by the word "tiger."

2) Rule of Thumb
Another southern admonition-- it was basically considered improper for a gentleman to administer corporal punishment, in public, to a woman/child/slave, using an object (usually a cane or pole) thicker than his thumb.
Nowadays, it's a colloquialism for a pearl of life wisdom.

[Edited 2016-02-08 22:59:16]
 
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Braybuddy
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:06 am

Quoting zrs70 (Thread starter):
posh: it men's fancy, right? But my understanding is that it come from a acronym, "portside over, starboard home." We rich people travelled by boat from Europe to india,they wanted to be on the port side of the boat on outbound, as the sun wouldn't to their skin on that side as much (back then, tan was considered uncouth).

That has never been established. In fact, there appears to be no evidence at all to support that theory:

http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us...hat-is-the-origin-of-the-word-posh

http://www.merriam-webster.com/help/faq-posh
 
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RyanairGuru
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:07 am

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 4):
Eeny Meeny Miny Moe
The original four words began in the early 1800s, as a small part of a derogatory chant sang by NYC children to describe immigrants of German or Polish descent

It actually goes back earlier than that. While you are spot on in terms of modern application, "Eeny Meeny Miny Moe" hark back to a counting system used in the Middle Ages. Don't ask me where it was used. I've forgotten!
 
WIederling
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:56 am

Quoting LAX772LR (Reply 4):

Etymology seems to be difficult to establish:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eeny,_meeny,_miny,_moe

and compare:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Counting-out_game
with:
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abz%C3%A4hlreim
( look out for "ene meene mu .. ")
 
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Vio
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 09, 2016 7:57 am

My two fav. ones are:

"It's all water under the fridge" and "Worst case Ontario" 

Canadians know what I'm talking about  
 
DLFREEBIRD
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Thu Feb 11, 2016 11:02 am

yea and anybody who watches the Trailer Park boys.
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Fri Feb 12, 2016 11:20 am

Quoting Braybuddy (Reply 5):
In fact, there appears to be no evidence at all to support that theory:

Quite a lot of people - army officers and senior civil servants - used to travel to India and come back on leave every year, Braybuddy. I think there is every possibility that the 'theory' is true..........
 
N867DA
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:16 pm

Quoting vio (Reply 8):
Canadians know what I'm talking about

Canadians also have fuddle duddle thanks to Pierre Trudeau  
 
PhilBy
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Fri Feb 12, 2016 5:51 pm

Cockney - originally the term applied by rural folk to refer to Londoners, literaly cockerels egg (chicken shit).
Nice - still means 'precise and accurate' (not pleasant)

and don't get into nursery rhymes:

pop goes the weasel - a recipe for rat killer
ring a ring a roses - how to spot a plague victim
 
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Revelation
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Fri Feb 12, 2016 6:37 pm

Quoting N867DA (Reply 11):
Canadians also have fuddle duddle thanks to Pierre Trudeau

Donald Rumsfeld left us the 'unknown unknown'.

Quoting PhilBy (Reply 12):
and don't get into nursery rhymes:

Some I was exposed to as a child:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_Mary,_Quite_Contrary has several explanations, one which refers to a beheading

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Cucaracha has several versions, one with drug references
 
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zckls04
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:11 pm

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 10):
Quite a lot of people - army officers and senior civil servants - used to travel to India and come back on leave every year, Braybuddy. I think there is every possibility that the 'theory' is true..........

In general every time you see a word etymology which is based on an acronym, it's incorrect.

Eg:

For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge
Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden
North East West South
Ship High In Transit
With Out Passport
Prisoner Of Mother (England)

etc, etc. They're all a load of rubbish- the "P.O.S.H" story is equally implausible.

Quoting PhilBy (Reply 12):
ring a ring a roses - how to spot a plague victim

Pretty sure this one's an urban myth too.
 
diverted
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Fri Feb 12, 2016 7:56 pm

Quoting vio (Reply 8):
"It's all water under the fridge" and "Worst case Ontario"

Canadians know what I'm talking about

That's against my vice principals

It doesn't take rocket appliances

Denial and Error

Ahhh Rickyisms.
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Sat Feb 13, 2016 6:27 am

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 14):
the "P.O.S.H" story is equally implausible.

Have to disagree to a point, zckls04. I was born and brought up in Hertfordshire, on the outskirts of London. Both my parents were 'educated' up to a point, so I grew up speaking 'standard English,'
like the BBC........  

The 'local' accent was basically Cockney. I still recall, at about five years old, getting into fights with people who kept telling me to stop 'talking posh'.......... thankfully, things eventually settled down.

But the word 'posh' was very definitely a 'factor' in UK society at the time. It basically meant people talking 'standard English,' as opposed to Cockney. And, given the thousands of Londoners who moved to Hertfordshire to escape the Blitz, it didn't produce true 'harmony' for some time.....

[Edited 2016-02-12 22:31:55]
 
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zckls04
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:23 am

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 16):
But the word 'posh' was very definitely a 'factor' in UK society at the time. It basically meant people talking 'standard English,' as opposed to Cockney. And, given the thousands of Londoners who moved to Hertfordshire to escape the Blitz, it didn't produce true 'harmony' for some time.....

All of what you have written is highly interesting, but totally irrelevant to the veracity of the P.O.S.H. story. Can you explain how your experiences make the origin of "P.O.S.H." more likely?
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:49 am

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 17):
Can you explain how your experiences make the origin of "P.O.S.H." more likely?

I can only say, zckls04, that I was accused of 'talking posh' in the 1940s at the age of about five. I have no idea how the expression originated.

But - given that there was a big difference between the wealthy and the 'ordinary' at the time, and the wealthy did a lot of travelling (by ship, passenger aeroplanes were virtually unknown) it is very possible that 'Port Out, Starboard Home' was the origin.

By all means tell us YOUR guess as to how the expression 'posh' originated?

I should perhaps mention that in my early years in Australia I was occasionally called a 'POM' - thankfully in a friendly spirit. As far as I know, that was derived from the expression 'Prisoner of Mother England.'............

[Edited 2016-02-15 22:03:45]
 
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zckls04
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:06 am

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 18):
But - given that there was a big difference between the wealthy and the 'ordinary' at the time, and the wealthy did a lot of travelling (by ship, passenger aeroplanes were virtually unknown) it is very possible that 'Port Out, Starboard Home' was the origin.

That's the way these theories get propagated. The idea that because something is possible, that it's the most likely explanation. That's the rationale intelligent design proponents use.

Problem is that the etymology you described didn't appear until at least the 1950s, and there is precisely zero evidence for it. Given the Victorians' fanatical obsession with collecting, it's beyond implausible that no record of "Port Out, Starboard Home" would survive from that era.

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 18):
By all means tell us YOUR guess as to how the expression 'posh' originated?

Nobody knows. We just know it isn't "Port Out, Starboard Home".

Seems like the Romani word "posh" meaning "money" (and earlier the Sanskrit "pārśam", meaning "side", or subsequently "half" as in "halfpenny") is the origin cited by most authoritative sources though.
 
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Tugger
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:09 am

Quoting Revelation (Reply 13):
Donald Rumsfeld left us the 'unknown unknown'.

I always felt bad for him for this, because the phrase (and it mate) are true statements used in various industries. For example: NASA, the space industry, and ship building etc. They are parts of risk assessment and analysis.

To whit:
1. Known unknowns (expected or foreseeable conditions), which can be reasonably anticipated but not quantified based on past experience as exemplified by case histories.
2. Unknown unknowns (unexpected or unforeseeable conditions), which pose a potentially greater risk simply because they cannot be anticipated based on past experience or investigation.

Tugg
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 6:16 am

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 19):
Nobody knows. We just know it isn't "Port Out, Starboard Home".

Sorry - have to ask how do we (or anyone else) KNOW that?

[Edited 2016-02-15 22:21:38]
 
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Revelation
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 1:12 pm

Quoting Tugger (Reply 20):
I always felt bad for him for this, because the phrase (and it mate) are true statements used in various industries.

Agree, but his explanation was comedic, yet at the same time tragic. The tragedy being he's admitting he's sending people to fight a war with very little understanding of the risks. True to the heritage of the infamous "Whiz Kids" like McNamara. Same outcome too, quagmire.
 
PhilBy
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:47 pm

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 19):
That's the way these theories get propagated. The idea that because something is possible, that it's the most likely explanation. That's the rationale intelligent design proponents use.

Indeed, try finding historical etymology. I read in a 1910's document that the origin of 'Manhattan' was native american for "falling down drunk" due to the supply of alcohol to the natives!

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/02/what-is-the-origin-of-posh/
http://www.snopes.com/language/acronyms/posh.asp
Surely, somewhere there must exist a ticket!
 
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zckls04
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 16, 2016 5:50 pm

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 21):
Sorry - have to ask how do we (or anyone else) KNOW that?

Simple. The Victorians were meticulous record keepers, writers, collectors and documenters. If the etymology you described were correct, some record of it would exist at the time the supposed phrase was commonplace. Also note that whilst nowadays balcony cabins are the norm on cruise ships, in Victorian times almost all the cabins one could travel in were located in the interior of the ship, with no window or balcony access.

There are other flaws in the story too, but the fact there's no record of it at the time is the killer blow. The Victorians recorded EVERYTHING.
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 12:44 am

Fair enough, then, let's assume that it wasn't 'Port Out' etc.

If so, anyone know how the word 'posh' WAS created?
 
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Revelation
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 1:49 am

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 25):
If so, anyone know how the word 'posh' WAS created?

If you want to believe the c&nts at Oxford University Press:

http://blog.oxforddictionaries.com/2012/02/what-is-the-origin-of-posh/

=> "origin unknown" despite two plausible sources deriving from "moneyed" and the mostly discredited P&O derivation.
 
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zckls04
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:07 am

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 25):
Fair enough, then, let's assume that it wasn't 'Port Out' etc.

If so, anyone know how the word 'posh' WAS created?

No, nobody currently knows with any certainty how it was created. But as above:

Quoting zckls04 (Reply 19):
Seems like the Romani word "posh" meaning "money" (and earlier the Sanskrit "pārśam", meaning "side", or subsequently "half" as in "halfpenny") is the origin cited by most authoritative sources though.
 
VapourTrails
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 2:18 am

"Bite the Bullet"

A person who ‘bites the bullet’, without any sign of fear, acts with great courage in the face of adversity. The phrase recollects a dangerous army practice in the 1850s. Soldiers were then equipped with the British Enfield rifle. Prior to using it, they had to bite off the head of the cartridge to expose the explosive to the spark which would ignite it. The procedure was fraught with danger, particularly so in the heat of battle. It needed firmness and courage, as even the slightest deviation or hesitation would endanger the soldier.   


"Bark Up the Wrong Tree"

Originating back when hunting was still a major sport, this phrase came from when animals were used to track, catch or retrieve prey. This applies, not least, to dogs. Dogs were used in the chasing of raccoons, which was chiefly undertaken at night and were trained to indicate the tree in which the animal had taken refuge by barking at it. Of course, even dogs can err and, at times, barked up the wrong tree.  

Source: ListVerse.com.
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 3:25 am

Quoting VapourTrails (Reply 28):
they had to bite off the head of the cartridge to expose the explosive to the spark which would ignite it. The procedure was fraught with danger

As it happens, as a bit of a 'rifle nut,' I can confirm that from personal experience. The cartridge was (is) actually a paper tube - the drill was (is) to bite off the end of the paper tube, pour the powder into the weapon, and then ram down the empty paper cartridge, which contained the bullet (and served as a wad).

There was (I suppose still is) a slight risk that the loose powder would encounter smouldering powder residue from the previous shot - the 'counter-measure' was (still is) to blow down the bore (basically blowing quite a lot of carbon dioxide) before re-loading.

I can confirm that the 'Enfield rifle' was incredibly accurate, and long-ranged, compared to the previous flintlock smooth-bores. It was the first such weapon that had 'bullet-shaped' bullets, as opposed to the previous musket-balls .And it had percussion caps under the hammer, instead of the previous loose powder. Arguably, that rifle just about won the Crimean War - and also kept India in the Empire........

[Edited 2016-02-16 20:07:32]
 
BMI727
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 3:54 am

Quoting VapourTrails (Reply 28):
"Bite the Bullet"

In America anyway, to "bite the bullet" means to do something you'd rather not do, as in "We decided to bite the bullet and pay the change fee." It comes from the Civil War era when wounded soldiers would be given a bullet to bite down on while undergoing rudimentary surgery without anesthetic.
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:03 am

Good point, BMI727, I'm sure you're right...........
 
VapourTrails
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:38 am

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 31):
Good point, BMI727, I'm sure you're right...........

  

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 30):
In America anyway, to "bite the bullet" means to do something you'd rather not do, as in "We decided to bite the bullet and pay the change fee." It comes from the Civil War era when wounded soldiers would be given a bullet to bite down on while undergoing rudimentary surgery without anesthetic.

Yep, here is another source, from Buzzfeed..

"Bite the Bullet" again..

Meaning: Face up to unpleasant reality.
Origin: Before anaesthetics were invented, injured soldiers would bite on a bullet to help them endure the pain of an operation/amputation.

"Armed to the teeth"

Meaning: Fully prepared for a confrontation.
Origin: Medieval warriors were often so laden with weapons that sometimes they would have to carry one in their teeth.

"Cold shoulder"

Meaning: Made to feel unwelcome.
Origin: Nothing to do with barging someone out of the way. In times gone by, an unwelcome visitor would have been given the cheapest and most common type of food: cold shoulder of mutton.

Another gun one!


"Flash in the Pan"

"Meaning: Something disappointingly short-lived.
Origin: There was an old type of gun that had a ‘pan’ on which a trail of powder led from the charge to the flint. Sometimes the powder ignited, but the gun didn’t go off. Hence it was merely a flash in the pan.


"Make the Grade"

Meaning: Reach the required standard.
Origin: Nothing to do with sitting exams. ‘Grade’ is short for ‘gradient’. The expression derives from railroad construction in 19th century America. Careful calculations had to be made to ensure engines didn’t encounter sudden steep gradients.

"Pull Out All the Stops"

Meaning: Achieve the maximum.
Origin: The ‘stops’ are knobs on an organ console. If the organist pulled them all out, he would be squeezing the most volume out of the instrument possible.
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 17, 2016 5:32 am

Good points, you guys!

With hindsight, I should have included the Civil War in my posts. Both sides were armed with the British Enfield Rifle - which had an (accurate) range of up to a mile, and could fire up to two (accurate) rounds a minute. It was the misfortune of the United States that both sides were armed with it in the Civil War, but still trained to fight 'shoulder to shoulder,' standing up - and it was the first rifle to use cylindrical bullets, designed to 'spread' when fired, and therefore 'grip the rifling' and be very accurate. Resulting in huge casualties on both sides, which weren't surpassed until World War One....................

[Edited 2016-02-16 22:16:28]
 
DLFREEBIRD
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Thu Feb 18, 2016 10:53 pm

The mining "town" Deadwood, South Dakota was originally (and illegally) on the Sioux Reservation because that's where they found the gold. In those days the town was filthy and littered with all manner of garbage. As a (predictable) result, the town was also ridden with mice and rats. The leading Madam in the town, one Dora DuFran (et al), found that the rodents running about the rooms at her several brothels upset her employees and her customers. Dora's solution was to import or capture a passel of cats (one for every room by at least one account) which then kept the places clear of rats and mice. It also earned her businesses the nickname of "cathouses".
 
DLFREEBIRD
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:43 pm

The term "broad" (or "broads") is oft used for "woman" (or "women") and is commonly considered a pejorative as it is taken as a reference to women's relative hip size, something women are often sensitive about. However, there's another potential derivation. A few centuries back when Great Britain was ruler of the seas and sea commerce and the like its major industry, sailing men were often away for very long periods, sometimes years. Folks, sometimes those looking to enjoy some extracurricular activity, often described the wives of those sailors as "abroad wives", or "abroads" and eventually it is presumed, "broads".
 
DLFREEBIRD
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Sun Feb 21, 2016 10:44 pm

The cat's meow

Originated as slang in the flapper culture of the 1920's. Began as a reference to a style of dress where the skirt length ended above the top of the stocking. The exposed skin was referred to as, The Cat's Meow. Think of the comic character Betty Boop from the same era. There were a number of gender-based phrases used by flappers as an inside joke in polite society...such as the eel's ankles, the snake's garters, and...the bee's knees. It eventually came to represent something 'desirable' and now means something great or outstanding
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:30 pm

Quoting VapourTrails (Reply 28):
"Bite the Bullet"

A person who ‘bites the bullet’, without any sign of fear, acts with great courage in the face of adversity. The phrase recollects a dangerous army practice in the 1850s. Soldiers were then equipped with the British Enfield rifle. Prior to using it, they had to bite off the head of the cartridge to expose the explosive to the spark which would ignite it. The procedure was fraught with danger, particularly so in the heat of battle. It needed firmness and courage, as even the slightest deviation or hesitation would endanger the soldier.
Quoting NAV30 (Reply 33):
Good points, you guys!

With hindsight, I should have included the Civil War in my posts. Both sides were armed with the British Enfield Rifle - which had an (accurate) range of up to a mile, and could fire up to two (accurate) rounds a minute. It was the misfortune of the United States that both sides were armed with it in the Civil War, but still trained to fight 'shoulder to shoulder,' standing up - and it was the first rifle to use cylindrical bullets, designed to 'spread' when fired, and therefore 'grip the rifling' and be very accurate. Resulting in huge casualties on both sides, which weren't surpassed until World War One....................

Paper cartridges go back to the Swedish King Carl Gustav in the 30 year war (before arkebusiers used to carry a bandoleer with a dozen wooden powder flasks with measured amounts of powder for each shot, wadding and ball separately in a pouch and priming powder for the pan in a powder horn). Carl Gustav revolutionised tactics at the time and gave his soldiers prepacked paper cartridges for their matchlock arkebuses, an ancestor of the musket. The procedure was more or less the same until the arrival of early breech loaders in the 19th century (Prussian Dreyse needle gun, American Sharps rifle or the French Chassepot rifle): Put musket on half cock; take cartridge from cartridge bag; bite cartridge, keep bullet in mouth; pour a little poder into the pan of the musket, close pan cover; place musket with the buttstock on the floor between feet; pour remaining powder into muzzle, followed by crumpled cartridge paper; spit bullet into muzzle; ram doen using ram rod; put ram rod back into bracket beneath barrel; get into firing position; make ready by pulling cock back to full cock; fire; repeat.

I'd rather go with the biting the bullet to prevent screaming while a field surgeon performs an amputation without anaestetics. And this again goes back to well before the American Civil war.

Jan
 
NAV30
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 23, 2016 8:18 am

Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 37):
Paper cartridges go back to the Swedish King Carl Gustav in the 30 year war

Agreed, MD11Engineer. But 'rifling' (spiral grooves along the barrel, causing the bullet to spin, thus adding accuracy) only 'arrived' on any scale in the 1850s - thus causing dreadful casualties in the Indian Mutiny, the Crimean War, and the US Civil War. Even though both sides in those conflicts were still using 'muzzle-loaders'........

A lot of the 'credit' goes to a guy named 'Minie,' who invented the 'bullet-shaped bullet' ('Minie-ball') as opposed to the musket-ball, to expand and grip the rifling of the new weapons.

[Edited 2016-02-23 00:33:26]
 
MD11Engineer
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Tue Feb 23, 2016 10:11 am

Quoting NAV30 (Reply 38):
Quoting MD11Engineer (Reply 37):
Paper cartridges go back to the Swedish King Carl Gustav in the 30 year war

Agreed, MD11Engineer. But 'rifling' (spiral grooves along the barrel, causing the bullet to spin, thus adding accuracy) only 'arrived' on any scale in the 1850s - thus causing dreadful casualties in the Indian Mutiny, the Crimean War, and the US Civil War. Even though both sides in those conflicts were still using 'muzzle-loaders'........

A lot of the 'credit' goes to a guy named 'Minie,' who invented the 'bullet-shaped bullet' ('Minie-ball') as opposed to the musket-ball, to expand and grip the rifling of the new weapons.

A paper cartridge speeds up loading, as compared to loose powder and ball, and makes logistics easier. During the 18th century prepacked charges were also used for muzzle loading artillery (a linen bag with a measured amount of powder, which had either a cannon ball or a tin can full of musket balls strapped to it with metal straps. the master gunner would used an awl to prick the linen bag through the went hole, and depending on the period, would then fill the vent hole with some powder from a powder flask or insert a friction initiator. Some naval guns also used a flint lock).
The main reason for the high number of casualties during the mid 19th century wars was, as you said, that rifles were becoming readily available. Up to the Napoleonic wars rifles were so expensive that the common soldier was issued an unrifled musket, which had a fairly short effective range of maybe 100 meters, beyond this you couldn't hit a barn door. As a result, starting in the 16th century tactics evolved to use massed ranks of musketiers in formation, who would fire salvoes at short distances (50 to 100 meters). These massed ranks were also vulnerable to artillery fire, but, in squares, impervious to cavalry attacks (who on the other hand would massacre individual infantry troops). But a volley of musket fire from close range would kill or main a lot of opponents as well.

Rifles were first used by specialist roops, starting in continental Europe, "Jäger" (hunter) units made up from real hunters and foresters, who would bring their own weapons. In North America, the British troops suffered from irregular American revolutionary units made up from local people agauin bringing their hunting rifles.
As a result the British formed their "Experimental Corps of Riflemen", which later became the 95th Rifles of the Napoleonic wars, then the Royal Green Jackets and is now the "Rifles" regiment of the British Army.
The early riflemen were issued with the muzzle loading, flint lock Baker Rifle, in which the bullet, wrapped in a leather patch, had to be forced down the barrel using a wooden mallet. Later the soldiers invented faster methods of loading, but it was still slow compared to a loose fitting musket barrel.
As such the riflemen were used as snipers and skirimishers, to kill officers, sergeants, artillery crews and other leading troops before the main line units with the muskets engaged. As the riflemen were vulnerable during reloading, they made advantage of the longer range of their rifles, as compared to the musket (e.g. a Sergeant Plunkett shot a French general off his horse in Spain at a range of 800 meters, and to show that he was not just lucky, also shot the general's adjudant) and were trained to operate in pairs, one reloading and the other one firing or covering, essentially "the ancestor of modern "fire and maneuvre" tactices. They also wore a dark green uniform with black buttons and signs of rank, as opposed to the regular unit's red coats, shiny brass buttons and white trousers) and were trained to used cover and concealment. As such they were regarded to be cowards and ungentlemanly by many traditional officers. For them the idea was that officers should eitherlet their men do the fighting and stand back, just giving orders, or fight other officers face to face with swords. To be shot off the horse by a sniper wasn't their idea of war.

After the Napoleonic wars ended, the lessons were quickly forgotten, as the troops went back to the barracks "for rwal soldiering", meaning marching in the barracks yard and polishing brass buttons.

But the early 19th century brought inventions, as you mentioned the"Minie" bullet, which is slightly undersized, so that it can beeasily rammed down a rifle barrel from the muzzle, but, due to it's hollow bottom, will expand under gas pressure to fill the lands and groves of the rifling when fired. Another invention of this time was the percussion cap, which did away with the flint lock and the priming powder in the pan, and made guns more reliable to fire, even in wet weather.
As many armies had huge stocks of flint lock muzzle loading rifles and muskets, they were first converted, e.g. the cock on the flint lock was changed and the pan and frizzen replaced by a piston to hold a percussion cap.

So you had now percussion muskets and so called muzzle loading "rifle muskets", like the Enfield Rifle.

In Prussia a gunsmith named Dreyse (later made a peer and given the aristocrat "von") invented bolt action breech loading rifle, in which the bullet was encased in a paper sabot, which also held the percussion cap to the bullet's base. The whole thing was wrapped in a peper tube to hold the powder and tied with string. On firing a needle like firing pin penetrated the powder and hit the primer on the bottom of the bullet, firing the charge. This design was far from perfect, as the obturation (sealing) of the chamber against the high pressures was not yet solved, burningthe firer's face the gun had a rather low range. But the rate of fire was a lot higher than the muzzle loading one, and it could be quickly reloaded, even in the prone position. It proved it's worth in the Danish-Prusian war and the Austro-Prussian war, where the Danes and Austrians were armed with muzzle loaders.
The French improved on this design in their Chassepot rifle and the Americans had the Sharps Rifle with it's falling breech block (I have a firing replica here in my house). Again it used a paper cartridge with a Minie bullet, which gets inserted from the breech end by lowering the extended trigger guard, which lets the breech block slide down. Pushing the breech block up will cause the sharp upper edge cut of the the paper base of the cartridge, exposing the powder to the channel leading down from the percussion cap piston.

The high losses of the Crimean war and the American Civil war came mainly from the fact thatthe generals wanted to use Napoleonic musket tactics of close formations marching up and down the battle field against long range effective rifle fire. The British still made this mistake during the first Boer war. Also don't forget that around 1850 the meatl cartridge case got invented, e.g. by Col. Boxer, where the brass of the cartridge case would seal the chamber by being pressed against the chamer walls. Also combining the percussion primer with the case, the bullet and the powder created a self contained, waterproof unit, which made combat and logistics easier.

Then Enfield rifles were converted into breech loaders as as stop gap (IIRC the Snider rifle), later specifically designed single shot breech loading rifles were developed (e.g. the Martini-Rifle), followed by mostly bolt action first single shot and later repeater rifles (e.g. Lee-Metford, Gewehr 88). The French then used smokeless powder, which permitted smaller bullets due to it's higher energy and avoided the thick cloud of black powder smoke, giving away one's position (the "Fog of War").

Jan
 
NAV30
Posts: 1080
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RE: Origins Of Common Expressions

Wed Feb 24, 2016 4:41 am

Still remember my father (born 1900), who'd served in the infantry in 1917-18, just about 'fondling' my own 303 Lee-Enfield, which I took home a couple of times when called up in the late 1950s.

He'd taken part in the 'last phase' of WW1, in the infantry (London Irish Rifles). He told us that that rifle 'inspired' them all - that they reckoned that it was far better than the German equivalent. That may or may not have been true - but my guess is that they all 'believed' that it was, and that belief sustained them though the 'last act' in 1918.....which involved quite a few 'frontal assaults'.......

[Edited 2016-02-23 20:55:35]

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