Idioms and Their Origin!

Idioms play a very important role in English! They beautify the language…I was coming across few idioms that we use in our language and decided to find out the same ! It is interesting to know how these idioms originated…

  • To put a spoke in someone’s wheel: 

MeaningTo deliberately hinder someone’s plans.                                                                          
Origin    : hundreds of years ago cartwheels were made from solid wood. The front wheels of a cart would have holes in them through which a spoke could be thrust in order to prevent or slow the cart from running away downhill.

  • To kick the bucket:                                                                                                                

Meaning: To die.                                                                                                                                     
Origin    : In slaughterhouses, the rail on which pigs are hung after slaughter to drain off the blood is known as the bucket bar. Muscle spasms after death sometimes lead to the dead pig twitching as if to kick the bucket bar, hence the expression.

  • Back handed compliment:

Meaning:A compliment that also insults or puts down at the same time.    
Origin    : Back-handed is synonymous with left-handed. For example in tennis, a backhand stroke is a strike by a right-handed player from the left side of the body.The left side of the body has always been deemed sinister. The Latin word for left is sinister. Hence, back-handed means round-about, indirect, or devious.

  • Crocodile Tears: 

Meaning: Pretending to cry in an attempt to manipulate or exploit, phony tears.                              
Origin  :  It was often thought that crocodiles shed tears that slid down into their mouths, moistening their food and making it easier for them to swallow. Hence the tears appear to be an expression of emotion but are in fact a means to make it easier to swallow (possibly the observer).

  • At the eleventh hour: 

Meaning: When a person wants more than is good for them.                                                          
Origin    : On a 12-hour clock (rather than the 24-hour clock used by scientists, the military, et al) the hours of 12 noon and 12 midnight seem to hold special significance. De-marking the transition from morning to afternoon and the end of the day, they are often used as deadlines (high noon, the stroke of midnight).To come at “the eleventh hour” implies that it comes in the last hour before the deadline. The choice of “the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” as the time to end W.W.I was quite apt.

  • Face the music: 

Meaning:To accept the truth.                                                                                                            
 Origin    :Comes from the British military. When someone was court marshaled, there would be a military drum squad playing, hence face the music. The term “drummed out of the military” came from this practice….
These are few of the popular ones.There are many more which are available in the source that am giving below. Its fun to know how these words came into play!


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