6 Popular Sayings and Where They Came From
Here are 6 Popular Sayings and Where They Came From:
On the rocks
Figuratively used for a variety of situations, “on the rocks” usually describes a situation of ruin. A marriage that’s on the rocks is one that’s on the verge of collapse. A person may be on the rocks financially, professionally, mentally, or physically—all of which mean different things depending on the context.
The saying itself dates back at least 200 years and was derived from the nautical disaster of a boat being being shipwrecked on a rocky coast.
Someone heading back to their stomping grounds is returning to a familiar place where they spent a lot of time, typically during their youth.
The origin of this term actually comes from “stamping grounds,” which during the Colonial era described a place where horses gathered in large numbers and stamped down the grass.
To turn a new leaf
To turn a new leaf is to start a new beginning. If one is turning a new leaf, it’s generally understood they did something wrong in the past but are trying to put it behind them.
The leaf being referred to is not one found in a tree, but one in a book. In most Romance languages “page” is synonymous with “leaf” as in the Spanish “hoja.”
In this sense, one who turns a new leaf is looking ahead instead of behind. It was commonly held that sins were recorded in a sort of master book for each person, so turning the page of a book was an especially fitting metaphor.
Earliest usage dates back to 1577.
Bite the dust
In the current usage, “to bite the dust” means to fall, wipe out, or in some cases, to die. It all depends on context. If a jockey bit the dust while turning the last lap at the Kentucky Derby, one would assume that he fell off the horse—not that he died.
However if I asked someone how their sick grandmother was doing and they replied that she’d “bitten the dust,” it would be quite clear that she was no longer living.
The term comes from American poet William Cullen Bryant, who described a doomed battle where a general is surrounded by his fellow warriors who “fall round him to the earth and bite the dust.”
In 1870 it was probably a startlingly creative line. Today, because the term has become a cliche, it just seems silly.
Fit as a fiddle
A fiddle is a stringed instrument what gained popularity during the Middle Ages in England. So popular was the fiddle, in fact, that it was used to describe positive human characteristics.
Someone with “a face made of a fiddle” was extremely good looking. To “play first fiddle” was to be in charge of a group; to be a leader. The English loved their fiddles evidently.
Something that’s “fit as a fiddle” is in complete working order; fine form; impossible to improve.
To take under one’s wing
To take under one’s wing is to protect and educate. To define one expression with another, taking someone under your wing is similar to “showing them the ropes.”
This expression comes to us from the New Testament.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”