Odd sayings and their origins

Caught-Red-HandedThis week's article is delivered with an element of fun as readers like myself might wonder how idioms have become intermingled with our every day language.

Some of the following may surprise as their origins could date back hundreds of years :

TO BITE THE BULLET

Long before anaesthetic was available a person undergoing surgery literally had to bite on a bullet to distract from the pain

BLOOD IS THICKER THAN WATER

Brothers at war would stick together and defend each other in the face of injury or death. In present times this refers to the importance of family bonds and unity as against connections with others. This bonding is still very prevalent in the middle east

TO BUTTER-UP A PERSON

This means to flatter or praise someone in an attempt to gain support or be in agreement of some sort
The saying originates in India where devotees would throw balls of butter at the statues of gods for moral support

TO TIGHTEN UP ONE'S BELT

In really poor times with food becoming scarce, people would lose weight and become malnourished. In order to stop trousers from falling down, one had to tighten one's belt.
Today this is a common saying during a depression or when finances "take a dive"

TO BE CAUGHT RED-HANDED

Stealing of animals has always been rife. A thief caught with a slaughtered animal had blood on his hands, thus the saying emerged and has survived to modern times

LET THE CAT OUT OF THE BAG

In medieval England, farmers would attend markets to buy animals. The piglet being small was placed in a bag after the sale was completed, but unscrupulous dealers would place a cat inside instead. Letting the cat out of the bag proved dishonesty! In these times the saying can even apply to secrecy being uncovered

TO PULL THE WOOL OVER ONE'S EYES

Just as judges do today, men once wore powdered wigs. A wig being pulled over the eyes blocked visuals of what was occurring . Today this basically means dishonest or deceitful acts being carried out

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