By Charles Earle Funk, Tom Funk
Why do humans "take forty winks" and never 50...or 60, or 70? Did anyone actually "let the cat out of the bag" at one cut-off date? Has someone truly "gone on a wild goose chase"? discover the solutions to those questions and plenty of extra during this huge, immense assortment, made out of 4 bestselling titles: A Hog on Ice, Thereby Hangs a story, Heavens to Betsy! and Horsefeathers and different Curious phrases. Dr. Funk, editor-in-chief of the Funk & Wagnalls usual Dictionary sequence, finds the occasionally magnificent, usually fun, and regularly interesting roots of greater than 2,000 vernacular phrases and expressions. From "kangaroo court docket" to "one-horse town", from "face the tune" to "hocus-pocus," it is an wonderful linguistic trip.
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Extra resources for 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions from White Elephants to a Song & Dance
There was a much earlier expression, dating back to the sixteenth century, "to give the bag," which meant to give one the slip, to elude someone, and also, to abandon. It is likely that the bag that was given was the same bag as that which one was left holding. Neither the bag of the sixteenth century nor its con tents, if any, is identified, but as the saying was used in speaking of a servant or apprentice who left without notification, it is highly probable that the original bag was empty, that the servant had absconded with his master's cash, leaving him only an empty purse.
Through thick and thin Through evil times and good; through foul weather and fair; steadfastly. " thurgh thikke and eek thurgh thenne. But Spenser, in The Faerie Queene, supplies the best clue to the probable original meaning in the lines: His tyreling Jade he fiersely forth did pusb Through thicke and thin, both over banck and bush. That is, if the rider was pushing his steed over a straight course and over "banck and bush," he was also likely to be going through both thickets and thin woods; and this, it is thought, was the original expression, so old that it had been contracted even before the time of Chaucer.
Coop" is slang for prison, jail; the original meaning was, there fore, to escape from prison. By later extension the phrase has come to mean to depart uncere moniously from any place, especially from a place that has begun to feel confining or restrictive. Thus a boy at school tells his fellows that he is going "to fly the coop," when he intends to "play hooky"; that is, to leave the school grounds without permission. Or, humorously, one at a party that he does not enjoy, is said "to have flown the coop" if he has left without formal leave-taking.