"Holy Toledo," refers to Toledo, Spain, which became an outstanding
Christian cultural center in 1085.
The idiom "pillar of salt" means to have a
stroke, or to become paralyzed and dead.
The last thing
to happen is the ultimate. The next-to-last is the penultimate, and the
second-to-last is the antepenultimate.
The phrase "raining cats and dogs" originated
in 17th Century England. During heavy downpours of rain, many of these
poor animals unfortunately drowned and their bodies would be seen
floating in the rain torrents that raced through the streets. The
situation gave the appearance that it had literally rained "cats and
dogs" and led to the current expression.
"sleep tight" originated when mattresses were set upon ropes woven
through the bed frame. To remedy sagging ropes, one would use a bed key
to tighten the rope.
The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from an
old English law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with
anything wider than your thumb.
things on the end of shoelaces are called aglets.
The ridges on the sides of coins are called
reeding or milling.
The right side
of a boat was called the starboard side due to the fact that the
astronavigators used to stand out on the plank (which was on the right
side) to get an unobstructed view of the stars. The left side was
called the port side because that was the side that you put in on at
The side of a hammer is a cheek.
The symbol on the "pound" key
(#) is called an octothorpe.
The term "devil's advocate" comes from
the Roman Catholic Church. When deciding if someone should be sainted,
a devil's advocate is always appointed to give an alternative view.
The term "dog days" has nothing to do with dogs. It dates back to Roman
times, when it was believed that Sirius, the Dog Star, added its heat
to that of the sun from July 3 to August 11, creating exceptionally
high temperatures. The Romans called the period dies canicular, or
"days of the dog."
The term "honeymoon" is derived from the
Babylonians who declared mead, a honey-flavored wine, the official
wedding drink, stipulating that the bride's parents be required to keep
the groom supplied with the drink for the month following the wedding.
The term "throw one's hat in the ring" comes from boxing, where
throwing a hat into the ring once signified a challenge. Today it
nearly always signifies political candidacy.
The term "the whole 9 yards" came from W.W.II
fighter pilots in the South Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the
ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27
feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all
their ammo at a target, it got "the whole 9 yards."
The term, "It's
all fun and games until someone loses an eye" is from Ancient Rome. The
only rule during wrestling matches was, "No eye gouging." Everything
else was allowed, but the only way to be disqualified is to poke
someone's eye out.
The two lines that connect your top lip to the
bottom of your nose are known as the philtrum.
The white part
of your fingernail is called the lunula.
The ZIP in Zip-code stands for "Zoning
Theodore Roosevelt was the only U.S. president to deliver an inaugural
address without using the word "I". Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D.
Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower tied for second place, using "I"
only once in their inaugural addresses.
A "Blue Moon" is the second full moon in a
calendar month (it is rarely blue).
A ghost writer
pens an anonymous book.
A poem written to celebrate a wedding is called
Anagrams amused the ancient Greeks, Romans and
Hebrews, and were popular during the Middle Ages.
the science that deals with the motion of projectiles.
Cannibalism, eating human flesh, is also called
Clans of long
ago that wanted to get rid of their unwanted people without killing
them used to burn their houses down - hence the expression "to get
DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleicacid.
In 1945 a
computer at Harvard malfunctioned and Grace Hopper, who was working on
the computer, investigated, found a moth in one of the circuits and
removed it. Ever since, when something goes wrong with a computer, it
is said to have a bug in it.
In the 19th century, craftsmen who made hats
were known to be excitable and irrational, as well as to tremble with
palsy and mix up their words. Such behavior gave rise to the familiar
expression "mad as a hatter". The disorder, called hatter's shakes, was
caused by chronic mercury poisoning from the solution used to treat the
felt. Attacking the central nervous system, the toxin led to behavioral
In the Middle
Ages, young men and women drew names from a bowl to see who their
valentines would be. They would wear these names on their sleeves for
one week. To wear your heart on your sleeve now means that it is easy
for other people to know how you are feeling.
No word in the English language rhymes with
month, orange, silver, and purple.
Oddly, no term existed for "homosexuality" in ancient Greece - there
were only a variety of expressions referring to specific homosexual
roles. According to several linguists, the word "homosexual" was not
coined until 1869 by the Hungarian physician Karoly Maria Benkert.
Poor whites in Florida and Georgia are called
"crackers." They got the name from their principal staple food, cracked
The "O" when
used as a prefix in Irish surnames means "descendant of."
The "y" in signs reading "ye olde.." is
properly pronounced with a "th" sound, not "y". The "th" sound does not
exist in Latin, so ancient Roman occupied (present day) England used
the rune "thorn" to represent "th" sounds. With the advent of the
printing press the character from the Roman alphabet which closest
resembled thorn was the lower case "y".
Romans built such an excellent system of roads that the saying arose
"all roads lead to Rome," that is, no matter which road one starts a
journey on, he will finally reach Rome if he keeps on traveling. The
popular saying came to mean that all ways or methods of doing something
end in the same result, no method being better than another.
The correct response to the Irish greeting,
"Top of the morning to you," is "and the rest of the day to yourself."