Friday, November 11, 2005
Have you ever wondered about the catch phrases people use? There are hundreds we use every day without ever knowing the original meaning. Like, ‘So cold it could freeze balls off a brass monkey.’ Now, who would guess where that really originated? Don’t you have strange images dancing through your head now as you try to figure it out? I did.
Until you hear the real story. Years ago, so I’ve been told, ships needed a way to store there cannon balls on board. It had to be space efficient and convenient, yet secure. Common sense says to stack them, but they’re round and bound to roll everywhere with the pitching of the ship, so what to do? Someone came up with a brass plate with holes that fit the cannon balls. The bottom layer rested in the holes securing the top layers that were stacked in progressively smaller layers. They called it a brass monkey (who knows why, maybe because it was fun to say.) Great! Worked like a charm – until it got cold. Brass shrinks at certain temperatures. When it did, all of the cannon balls would pop loose and roll everywhere. Hence, ‘It’s cold enough to freeze balls off a brass monkey.’
Makes sense now, doesn’t it? But what about all the ones we use today. We take for granted things like, ‘Do not pass go, do not collect $200.’ Or ‘I’ve got a get out of jail free card’. You and I know these are Monopoly-isms. But fifty years from now, will anyone remember? How about ‘Where’s the Beef’ from Wendy’s or ‘Can you hear me now?’ from Verizon? There are hundreds of phrases we’ve adapted from the pop-culture around us. Will someone years from now be explaining them to their kids as historical trivia tid-bits?
I suppose there are some that may never make sense, like ‘knee high to a grass hopper’ or ‘sucking hind tit’. (My Granny’s favorites, the latter meaning she’s in last place like the runt of the litter getting stuck with the last tit. She’s hillbilly if you hadn’t guessed.) Or maybe somewhere someone still remembers where those originated. Even though I understand the intentions behind the phrases, their origins are already dim.
What other phrases do you find yourself using day in and day out without realizing their origins?