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Idioms with Interesting Origin

In everyday life we all use dozens of set expressions and idioms that make no literal sense. The etymology of some of them can be guessed, but there are some crazy expressions in the English language, that are hard to understand without knowing their history. Here is the outline of the most interesting idioms from
  • Bite the bullet (to deal with something unpleasant or difficult). Long ago during wars there was shortage of anesthesia , so the doctors asked the patients to bite the bullet in order to be distracted from pain. The phrase was first recorded in 1891.
  • Butter someone up (to impress somebody with flattery). In ancient India there was a religious ritual when believers threw pieces of butter at the statues of their gods with the aim to please them and ask for forgiveness.
  • Turn a blind eye (to ignore facts and the reality). The British admiral Nelson had a bad eyesight. He had to stop the fight by some sign, but he held a telescope to his blind eye and pretended not to see the signal and actually won the fight.
  • Caught red-handed (to be caught in the process of doing something wrong ). There was an old English law that punished everybody who killed the animal he or she did not possess. The person could be punished if there was a proof – blood of the killed animal on the hands of the mordurer.
  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater (to get rid of useful things together with minor ones). It’s hard to believe, but in the 1500s people had a bath only once a year. Moreover, they did not change the water. Men were the first to bathe, then women. Children and babies were last in a row and had to bathe in very dirty water. Their mothers found it hard to find their babies in that filth.
  • Let one’s hair down (to relax, be at ease). In the Medieval times women had to wear elegant hairdos, which were usually pulled up. They could feel themselves comfortable only after coming back home.
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