What Does That Old Saying Mean? (Part 1)

Our everyday language is filled with “Old Sayings.” But what do they really mean?  Let’s take a look at a few of them.

BIG WIG – In the 18th century when many men wore wigs, the most important men wore the biggest wigs. Hence today    important people are called big wigs.

BITTER END – Anchor cables on ships were wrapped around posts called bitts. The last piece of cable was called the bitter end. If you let out the cable to the bitter end there was nothing else you could do, you had reached the end of your resources.

CUT AND RUN – In an emergency, rather than haul up an anchor, the sailors would cut the anchor cable and then run with the wind.

GOODBYE – This is a contraction of the words God be with ye (you).

LILY-LIVERED – Means cowardly. People once believed that your passions came from your liver. If you were lily-livered your liver was white like a lily (because it did not contain any blood). Thus, you were a coward.

A LONG SHOT – A long shot is an option with only a small chance of success. In the past, guns were only accurate at short range. So, a ‘long shot’ (fired over a long distance) only had a small chance of hitting its target.

PANDEMONIUM – This comes from John Milton’s poem Paradise Lost. In Hell the chief city is Pandemonium. In Greek Pandemonium means ‘all the devils’.

POT LUCK – In the past all kinds of food went into a big pot for cooking. If you sat down to a meal with a family you dipped from the pot and could never be quite sure what you would be served. Thus, pot luck.

RULE OF THUMB – This comes from the days when craftsmen used their thumbs for making rough measurements.

SPINSTER – A spinster is an unmarried woman. Originally it was a woman who made her living by spinning wool. It was so common for single women to support themselves that way that by the 18th century ‘spinster’ was a synonym for a middle-aged, unmarried woman.

While these sayings are interesting, in “Part 2” we will look at Old Sayings that came right from God’s Word.  Be thinking about some that we use commonly today.