It’s Life List time!
As a writer, I use more cliches than I care to admit, because I have a fascination with them. In fact, I love to turn them into puns that are far less funny than I think they are. Regardless, it’s time I learned the history behind such cliches, yes?
Each Monday, starting in January of 2011, I’ll be documenting the history of five cliches that I’ve researched over the weekend. Fun, right? You probably don’t care. But I promise it’ll make for stellar dinner party conversation. Either that, or you’ll win Jeopardy someday. Remember the little people when that happens, OK?
Let’s proceed with a sneak peek 5 to whet your whistle (ooh! another cliche!)!:
1. A pig in a poke is a purchase you should look at closely before buying. A ‘poke’ is a bag in this case, and if you’re in a market buying a pig, you should really take the pig out of the bag to be sure you’re really getting a pig, and not an animal of lesser value. Like a cat.
Which brings us to…
2. Cat out of the bag means to tell a secret or reveal something you’re not supposed to. In the pig-poke case, letting the cat out of the bag is a big mistake. Huge. Because you’re supposed to be selling a pig, you know, and if the cat’s out of the bag, you’re in big trouble. This is in the old days, so you’ll probably be stoned or something. I don’t know.
3. Achilles’ heel is a weakness, so don’t put this saying in your next anniversary card. As the legend goes, the god Achilles’ mother dipped him into the river Styx (hello, former favorite band!) to make him invincible. Except that his heel wasn’t covered by the water and he was later killed from an arrow to the heel.
4. To know the ropes is to know what’s going on. Back in the day, one of the first things sailors needed to learn in order to sail the seas was knot-tying, or learning the ropes. And because I don’t yet know how to properly tie my shoes, I can no longer use this phrase.
5. To be the bee’s knees means you’re pretty fantastic (this one, friends, you may put in your anniversary cards). Two theories for this one: (1) Bees carry pollen in sacs in their legs, so that’s where the good stuff is. (2) Ms. Bee Jackson was a 20’s dancer famed for introducing the Charleston to Broadway, a very knee-heavy dance. Meaning she had excellent knees, I’d imagine.
Yay! That’s 5 for today! Hooray for learning!
[All info from Phrases.org, which is my new favorite site. B/c I’m a nerdbomber.]