By Charles Earle Funk, Tom Funk

ISBN-10: 0883658453

ISBN-13: 9780883658451

Why do humans "take forty winks" and never 50...or 60, or 70? Did somebody actually "let the cat out of the bag" at one time limit? Has someone truly "gone on a wild goose chase"? discover the solutions to those questions and plenty of extra during this huge, immense assortment, produced from 4 bestselling titles: A Hog on Ice, Thereby Hangs a story, Heavens to Betsy! and Horsefeathers and different Curious phrases. Dr. Funk, editor-in-chief of the Funk & Wagnalls average Dictionary sequence, finds the occasionally magnificent, usually a laugh, and continually interesting roots of greater than 2,000 vernacular phrases and expressions. From "kangaroo court docket" to "one-horse town", from "face the tune" to "hocus-pocus," it really is an unique linguistic journey.

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Additional resources for 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions from White Elephants to a Song & Dance

Sample text

To draw the longbow The longbow was the type of bow said to have been used by Robin Hood; that is, a bow about the length of a man, as dis­ tinguished from the old short bow used at the Battle of Hastings, or from the crossbow. The longbow, as compared with either of the others, was greatly superior in range and in accuracy. Famous archers vied with one another in using the longbow, and great tales were told of their prowess. One archer, according to an old ballad, was so skilled that, in an exhibition before the king, he split a slender wand at a distance of 400 yards (almost a quarter of a mile) , then to impress the king still more, he tied his own seven­ year-old son to a stake, balanced an apple upon the lad's head, and, from a distance of I 20 yards, split the apple.

Thus the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a bolt from the blue, in the figurative sense. Literary record of the use of the saying dates only to 1888, but it is likely that it existed in common speech many years earlier. an Achilles' heel A vulnerable spot. In the Iliad, Homer's marvelous legend, Achilles, the hero of the story, was the son of a king, Peleus, and of the sea-goddess, Thetis, and a great-grandson of no less than Zeus himself. The account that Homer gives of the boyhood of so re­ markable a being is reasonably prosaic; that is, he was at least brought up on land, even though his tutors did include a centaur.

But in order to satisfy the meaning, "by fair means or foul," we must assume that some of the ancient shepherds found an excuse to tend their sheep with crooks that were exceedingly long or unusually heavy. to turn the tables Metaphorically speaking, we turn the tables upon another fellow when we put him in the predicament that we have been occupying, or into a similar one. " The saying arose during the early 1 600s, some three centuries ago, and seems to have been applied to some popular card game in which a player, when at a disadvantage, might reverse the position of the board and thus shift the disadvantage to his adver­ sary.

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2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions from White Elephants to a Song & Dance by Charles Earle Funk, Tom Funk


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