Whether they originate in another era, another country or another language, few of the phrases we use today are original to us. Take this quiz to find out how well you know the origins of these phrases.
In the early days before anesthesia, sometimes during battle, a patient might be given a bullet to bite down on to distract him from pain. It didn't really work.
Some say the origin comes from punishment. The British Navy used the cat-o'-nine-tails as a way to whip insubordinates into shape. This cat whip was so painful, its victims were rendered (temporarily) silent.
In Indian culture, a devout person might throw balls of butter at certain gods and goddesses to solicit favor. Butter must have been pretty valuable!
One theory involves hatmakers in the 1600s Hats were made with mercury, which was poisonous - symptoms of mercury poisoning include shaking and irritability. And you thought it was from "Alice in Wonderland."
Way back in English history, it was impossible to convict someone of killing someone else's animal unless the accused had the animal's blood on his hands.
Hound dogs who literally barked up the wrong tree to signal prey that had already escaped elsewhere, were the originators of this phrase.
One-eyed captain, Admiral Horatio Nelson, was blind in one eye. He was said to have once put his scope up to his blind eye and ignored a direct order while at war.
When Native Americans were engaged in peace talks, they would literally bury their weapons to ensure they could not access them.
Back when folks didn't bathe very often, an entire family would bathe using the same basin of water, oldest to youngest. By the time the babies were bathed, the water was so dirty, mom and dad might not notice that baby was in the basin before tossing the contents out a window.
An unwelcome guest might be served a piece of meat from the shoulder of the beast back in old England. Being served this way meant it was time to leave.
During World War II, soldiers had nine yards of ammo. Once that ammo was used up, the soldier was considered to have fought to the best of his ability.
Medieval women wore their hair in elaborate and stiff styles. The could only let the hair down and relax when they were at home and not receiving guests.
Cats certainly do become annoyed if you rub their fur backwards. Doing so might even earn you a bite.
A card dealer who had his hands above board (above the table) was unlikely to be able to stack the deck.
By one theory, pirates would carry so many weapons with them that they might have to carry a knife between their teeth. At least they were prepared.
Throttle/fuel levers had a ball atop the lever. Pushing the lever forward as far as it would go is where this phrase origninated.
While hunting it is sometimes necessary to beat the bush to flush out prey. A hunter who beats around the bush is working his way to what is important.
A soldier with cold feet moves slower than one who doesn't.
In older weapons, gunpowder might flash but not engage. This would have been obviously disappointing.
Interestingly, placing a goat in the stall with a nervous horse serves to calm the horse. Before a race, if an opponent wanted a horse to lose, he would steal the goat, causing the horse to become irritated.
Farmers used to bring suckling pigs to market in a bag. Dishonest farmers would substitute the piglet with a cat. Letting the cat out of the bag disclosed the ruse.
This phrase has nothing to do with academics, but was rather the result of ensuring that a railroad track was graded properly to avoid steep inclines.
"Mealy mouthed" comes from a German phrase. The idea is that a person with a mouth full of meal or grain can't speak clearly.
In ancient Rome, people had a tendency to assign meaning to physical manifestations. Interestingly only a tingling/burning of the right ear meant someone was speaking well of you. If it was the left ear, better watch out for trouble.
During the mid-1900s, suspending someone over a barrel was sometimes prep for a flogging. Other times it was a strategy to clear the lungs of someone who nearly drowned.
During old card games, a buck (jacknife) was passed around to signify which player was next to be the dealer.
If an organ player pulled out all the stops of his/her organ, the instrument could be played at its loudest and fullest.
In Norse mythology, cats and dogs are representative of rain and wind, respectively. That inspires one theory for the phrase's origin.
Boxing once required opponents to meet at a line scratched on the ground. A boxer who did not approach the scratch forfeited the match.
During ancient times, it was rumored that crocodiles wept while consuming their prey.
In ancient Greece, notable individuals were awarded laurel leaf crowns. They then displayed these awards to celebrate past achievements.
During the 18th century, the Riot Act was enacted to quell mobs. The act would be read aloud to angry gatherings.
The Marquis of Waterford and his celebrating buddies literally painted parts of Melton Mowbray red during a night of drunken fun.
The phrase comes from a Malaysian word that essentially means "going postal" - attacking with rage.
Freemasons must undergo rigorous vetting before proceeding to the next degree, or level, of membership.