Origin matters…………


Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate

> Words and phrases every day!

> But do you know how they came into being?
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> A SHOT OF WHISKEY
In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.
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> BUYING THE FARM
This is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you “bought the farm” for your survivors.
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> IRON CLAD CONTRACT
This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.
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> PASSING THE BUCK/THE BUCK STOPS HERE
Most men in the early U.S. West carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it as common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal he would “pass the buck”  to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there”.
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> RIFF RAFF
The Mississippi River was the main way of travelling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff” and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.
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> COBWEB
The Old English word for “spider” was “cob”.
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> SHIP STATE ROOMS
Travelling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.
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> SHOWBOAT
These were floating theatres built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played small town along the Mississippi River. Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat” these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is “showboating”.
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> OVER A BARREL
In the days before CPR a downing victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in a effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.
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> BARGE IN
Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in”.
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> BARRELS OF OIL
When the first oil wells were drilled they had made no provision for storing the liquid so they used water barrels. That is why, to this day, we speak of barrels of oil rather than gallons.

Courtesy: Shyam, my IIM-B Classmate

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan

7th March 2015

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