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Monday, May 20, 2019

The Origins of SAYINGS

The Origins of SAYINGS

A rework of the best in a series of posts from 2011

Do you ever wonder where the many common sayings we use every day come from?  What are the origins of expressions we hear all the time?  You may be surprised.  Here are more of Cranky’s “ORIGINS OF SAYINGS.”

"Break a Leg"

Meaning: Wish an actor good luck. 
Origin: To bend or break one’s leg was an archaic phrase for taking a bow.  In the theater, a successful performance means taking a curtain call bow, so “Break a leg” is to wish an actor a successful performance.

"Buy The Farm"

Meaning: Die

Origin: Farmers were notorious for having a large mortgage on their property.  When a farmer died and he had life insurance the neighbors would remark, “At least the insurance will pay off the mortgage.  Hence – He bought the farm!

“Don’t yank my crank”

Meaning: Don’t try and fool me.

Origin: Fisherman knew they had a fish on when their crank moved.  As a goof it was common for another fisherman to pull on the line which moved the crank and made the fisherman think he had a fish.  Fisherman used the expression anytime someone tried to fool them, “Hey, don’t yank my crank.”

“There is more than one way to skin a cat”

Meaning: There is more than one way to get a job done.

Origin: This was obviously first said by someone who was not a cat skinner as it turns out there is actually only one way to skin a cat.

“Use your noodle”

Meaning: Think, be smart; use your head.

Origin: In some cultures, pasta is the main course and served from the head of the table. Pasta or the noodle became synonymous with the head.  Thus, to be smart you use your head, or use your noodle.  (Also see “She gives really good noodle!”)

“A stitch in time saves nine”

Meaning: A little precaution saves time in the long run. 
Origin: To stitch a hem before it unravels will save many more stitches in the future.  This phrase makes very little sense to Germans.

 “Get outta the fucking car”

Meaning: Police jargon for “Sir, please exit your vehicle.” 
Origin: First used when Rodney King did not understand “Please,” “Exit,” or “Vehicle.”

 “Pissed off”

Definition: Very angry
Origin: The Pizdoff family of Scranton Pa. was known for their loudness. One day a stranger in town noticed Mrs. Pizdoff arguing boisterously with her husband.  The stranger asked a local what was the argument all about.  The local replied, “oh, it’s nothing, there just Pizdoffs.”

 “Two wrongs don’t make a right”

Meaning: Retaliation of a wrong doing will not make things better.  

Origin: In 1880, two Chinese inventors attempted to develop the incandescent bulb.  The Wong brothers failed and finally gave up on the dream.  Americans mis-interpreted a Japanese article about the effort and 

“Two Wong’s no make a rite”
Turned it into a philosophical saying. 

“I before E except after C or sounds like ay…”

Meaning: A spelling rule. 
Origin: There used to be only three “ie” words in the English language, believe, receive, and neighbor.  This rule is currently useless.

“Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”

Definition: Accept a gift graciously and unconditionally
Origin: Kansas farmer Seth Travers was given a plow horse as a wedding present from his father-in-law.  Before he said thank you Seth checked to see the horse had all its teeth.  He was shot by his insulted father-in-law.

“It’s raining cats and dogs”

Definition: A really heavy rain storm
Origin: Harvey Katz and Charlie Docks were roofing a farm house when a sudden heavy rain storm came up.  Both roofers slipped on the wet shingles.  When the farm owner looked out and saw Harvey and Charlie fall by the window he remarked,

“Look, it’s raining Katz and Docks.”

"Smart as a whip”

Definition: Pretty fucking smart.
Origin: Ever been hit with a whip?  It Fucking SMARTS!

“Dumb as a stump”

Definition: Someone is really stupid.
Origin: Most people believe this refers to a tree stump not being very smart. Actually, it originally came as a reference to a 1900's Akron Ohio resident who was known to be the stupidest man in Ohio; Thomas A. Stumb.

As these are the "best of," aren't you glad I weeded out the bad ones!


  1. “Don’t yank my crank” is my favorite. I knew exactly what it meant. I too love all these old sayings.

    Have a fabulous day and week, Joe. ♪♫♪♫

  2. Hahahahahahaha. My favorite is the Two Wongs. Hahahahaha. Katz and Docks is a close second. :)

  3. Some of these are actually believable, Joe! LOL!

  4. Lots of giggles here. I wonder what others (true or not) are out there.

  5. I was buying into every word until the Pizdoffs...

  6. You, Sir, are no Charles Earl Funk.

    But then, who is?

  7. My Mom hated it when Dad said "pissed off". Maybe if she knew it's origin she would be OK with it.
    Now, could you find the origin of the phrase: "shut your pie hole"? I'm asking for a friend.

    1. Actually the term is shut your Pi hole. The mouth circumference of most people is on average 3.14 inches, thus the mouth is called a Pi hole. So shut your Pi hole is the same as shut your mouth.

    2. I always knew it meant shut your mouth, but thought people said pie hole because the mouth is where people shove pies, sometimes it was called cake hole as in "shut your cake hole"

  8. Heeheehee! Would you like to borrow my Dictionary of Etymology?

  9. I'm still trying to figure why one would want to skin a cat. And I don't want to know the one right way to do it either.


  10. "A stitch in time saves nine" Why wold this not make sense to Germans? I'm of German origin and remember learning from my mother to check the hems of clothing each night when undressing, seams too. If any stitches were loose or unravelling, the article was mended that same night.

    1. Attempted lay on words, "A stitch in time saves nein."

  11. These were fun and informing. Glad to know about break a leg for I recently wished that on two friends who are in a play and now I know I wasn't being ugly. I always wonder, who was the first person to use a particular saying to get it rolling. He or she must have been smart as a whip.

  12. I now believe every one of these sayings and their origins. I'll be as wise as an owl.

    God bless.

  13. Hilarious! Thanks so much for the laughs. ☺ And, the history lessons.

  14. dumb as stump

    what do you mean by that Joe

  15. Hahahaha....

    And I'm glad you explained the "stitch in time" to River, because I couldn't make sense of that, either!