Surprising Origins of Popular Sayings

I never realized how many idioms I used in every day life until my boys hit the age where everything was a question. What does that mean mom? I hate to admit that I found myself trying to describe some of these and eventually just said, "Alexa, where does "stealing your thunder" come from. Now, there's a book to explain all of these sayings we've used since the dawn of time. The new book “Watch Your Tongue: What Our Everyday Sayings and Idioms Figuratively Mean” drops October 30th. In the meantime here are few:

  • Blonde Bombshell – The expression originated from the 1933 Jean Harlow film “Bombshell,” with ads for the film describing the actress as a “blonde bombshell of filmdom.”
  • “Cut off your nose, to spite your face” – This stems from a mother superior at a Scottish convent in 870 AD who suggested her nuns disfigure themselves to avoid being raped by Vikings. She herself chopped off her nose and upper lip. Then, 100 years later it appeared in a 1796 book titled “Classical Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue.”
  • “Looking for Mr. Right” - A term first coined in British poet John Crane’s 1796 “Address to the Bachelors,” although it really didn’t start being used until about 1860.
  • “Cloud Nine” – The numbering of clouds has religious connotations, but the phrase actually first appeared in the mid-20th century in a Texas newspaper. It became even more popular when both The Temptationsand George Harrison made albums called ”Cloud Nine.”
  • “Peeping Tom” – Comes from the story of Lady Godiva, whose husband promised he’d lower taxes on his tenants if she would ride through the town naked. She did as he pleased, but asked the town not to look, and all agreed, except for a tailor named Thomas.
  • “Stealing Your Thunder” - A playwright in 1709 figured out a way to mimic thunder sounds for his play, but after it closed, a production of “Macbeth” stole his ideas, and he reportedly complained, “They will not let my play run, but they steal my thunder.”

Speaking of thunder being stolen. Classic Friends. 

Stacey Lynn

Stacey Lynn

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