Have you ever thought about the short sayings people use and wonder how they became part of the English language? The one that recently piqued my interest is “kick the bucket.” As I heard this saying escape someone’s lips, I thought to myself, “What on earth does a bucket have to do with death?” If you’re just as neurotic as I am, have any interest in these sayings and their histories, or just realized “kick the bucket” really is an odd saying and you’d like to figure out the history behind it, then this list of 25 common sayings and where they came from is the list for you. I hope it doesn’t “rub you the wrong way.”
Go the Whole 9 Yards
Meaning: To try one’s best
History: World War II Fighter pilots received a 9-yard chain of ammunition. Therefore, when a pilot used all of his ammunition on one target, he gave it “the whole 9 yards.”
Meaning: One who crosses the street in a reckless or illegal manner
History: Jay birds that traveled outside of the forest into urban areas often became confused and unaware of the potential dangers in the city – like traffic. Amused by their erratic behavior, people began using the term “Jaywalker” to describe someone who crossed the street irresponsibly.
Kick the Bucket
Meaning: To die
History: When a cow was killed at a slaughterhouse, a bucket was placed under it while it was positioned on a pulley. Sometimes the animal’s legs would kick during the adjustment of the rope and it would literally kick the bucket before being killed.
Let Your Hair Down
Meaning: To relax or be at ease
History: Parisian nobles risked condemnation from their peers if they appeared in public without an elaborate hairdo. Some of the more intricate styles required hours of work, so of course it was a relaxing ritual for these aristocrats to come home at the end of a long day and let their hair down.
More Than You Can Shake a Stick At
Meaning: Having more of something than you need
History: Farmers controlled their sheep by shaking their staffs to indicate where the animals should go. When farmers had more sheep than they could control, it was said they had “more than you can shake a stick at.”