25 Truly Shocking Origins of Common Phrases

Posted by , Updated on July 22, 2018


Do you know where some of our common sayings come from? From “kicking the bucket” to “rule of thumb,” you might not believe where some of these everyday sayings came from! On today’s list, we’re going to explore 25 Truly Shocking Origins of Common Phrases. (We hope these sayings don’t “rub you the wrong way!”)

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Bite the Bullet

bite the bullet

Meaning: Accepting something difficult or unpleasant
History: There was no time to administer anesthesia before emergency surgery during battle. The surgeon made patients bite down on a bullet in an attempt to distract them from the pain.


Blood is Thicker than Water

blood brothers

Meaning: Family comes before everything else
History: In ancient Middle Eastern culture, blood rituals between men symbolized bonds that were far greater than those of family. The saying also has to do with “blood brothers,” because warriors who symbolically shared the blood they shed in battle together were said to have stronger bonds than biological brothers.


Break the Ice

ice breaker ship

Meaning: To commence a project or initiate a friendship
History: Before the days of trains or cars, port cities that thrived on trade suffered during the winter because frozen rivers prevented commercial ships from entering the city. Small ships known as “icebreakers” would rescue the icebound ships by breaking the ice and creating a path for them to follow. Before any type of business arrangement today, it is now customary “break the ice” before beginning a project.


Butter Someone Up

butter balls

Meaning: To flatter someone
History: An ancient Indian custom involved throwing balls of clarified butter at statues of the gods to seek favor.


Cat Got Your Tongue?

cat tongue

Meaning: Something said when a person is at a loss for words
History: There are two possible sources for this common short saying. The first refers to the cat-o’-nine-tails – a whip used by the English Navy for flogging. The whip caused so much pain that the victims were left speechless. The second refers to the practice of cutting out the tongues of liars and blasphemers and feeding them to cats.

Photo: Featured Image - shutterstock, 1. shutterstock, 2. pxhere.com (Public Domain), 3. shutterstock, 4. Foto: Jonn Leffmann, Signalflagga - Gladan-Falken - Ystad-2015, CC BY 3.0 , 5. wikimedia commons (Public Domain), 6. shutterstock, 7. pxhere.com (Public Domain), 8. pxhere.com (Public Domain), 9. © 2011 Jonathan Lucas, Islington Punch and Judy, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 10. pxhere.com (Public Domain), 11. shutterstock, 12. shutterstock, 13. wikimedia commons (Public Domain), 15. josephdepalma via flickr, The Whole Nine Yards, CC BY 2.0, 16. pixabay (Public Domain), 17. shutterstock, 18. shutterstock, 19. pxhere.com (Public Domain), 20. wikimedia commons (Public Domain), 21. TimOve via flickr, Has the cat got your tongue or his own?, CC BY 2.0, 22. Steven Depolo via flickr, Butterballs, CC BY 2.0, 23. Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis (Public Domain), 24. shutterstock, 25. shutterstock

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