Wednesday, August 26, 2015


The first part of this post was sent to me by my friend Carole.  Thank you, Carole!!

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.

American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

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.

This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it was 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".

The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling 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.

Traveling 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.

Early beds were made with a wooden frame. Ropes were tied across the frame in a crisscross pattern. A straw mattress was then put on top of the ropes. Over time the ropes stretched, causing the bed to sag. The owner would then tighten the ropes to get a better night's sleep.

These were floating theaters 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".

In the days before CPR a drowning 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.

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".

Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless "hog wash".

The word "curfew" comes from the French phrase "couvre-feu", which means "cover the fire". It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. It was later adopted into Middle English as "curfeu", which later became the modern "curfew". In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a "curfew".

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.

As the paper goes through the rotary printing press friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press it’s hot. The expression means to get immediate information.
Following are some proposed conversions that I think might make things easier to understand:

1. Ratio of an igloo's circumference to its diameter = Eskimo Pi 

2. 2000 pounds of Chinese Soup = Won ton 

3. 1 millionth of a mouthwash = 1 microscope 

4. Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement = 1 bananosecond 

5. Weight an evangelist carries with God = 1 billigram 

6. Time it takes to sail 220 yards at 1 nautical mile per hour = Knotfurlong 

7. 365.25 days of drinking low calorie beer = 1 Lite year 

8. 16.5 feet in the Twilight Zone = 1 Rod Serling 

9. Half a large intestine = 1 semicolon 

10. 1,000,000 aches = 1 megahurtz 

11. Basic unit of laryngitis - 1 hoarsepower 

12. Shortest distance between two jokes - a straight line 

13. 453.6 graham crackers = 1 pound cake 

14. 1 million microphones = 1 megaphone 

15. 1 million bicycles = 1 megacycle 

16. 365 days = 1 unicycle 

17. 2000 mockingbirds = two kilomockingbirds 

18. 10 cards = 1 decacard 

19. 52 cards = 1 deckacard 

20. 1 kilogram of falling figs = 1 Fig Newton 

21. 1000 grams of wet socks = 1 literhosen 

22. 1 millionth of a fish = 1 microfiche 

23. 1 trillion pins = 1 terrapin 

24. 10 rations = 1 decaration 

25. 100 rations = 1 C-Ration 

26. 2 monograms = 1 diagram 

27. 8 nickels = 2 paradigms 

28. 5 statute miles of intravenous surgical tubing at Yale University Hospital = 1 I.V. League
ArcaMax, I think!!
And some suggestions to modernize the dictionary:

1. ARBITRATOR: A cook that leaves Arby's to work at McDonalds.

2. AVOIDABLE: What a bullfighter tries to do.

3. BERNADETTE: The act of torching a mortgage.

4. BURGLARIZE: What a crook sees with.

5. CONTROL: A short, ugly inmate.

6. COUNTERFEITERS: Workers who put together kitchen cabinets.

7. ECLIPSE: What an English barber does for a living.

8. EYEDROPPER: A clumsy ophthalmologist.

9. HEROES: What a guy in a canoe does.

10. LEFT BANK: What the robber did when his bag was full of money.

11. MISTY: How golfers create divots.

12. PARADOX: Two physicians.

13. PARASITES: What you see from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

14. PHARMACIST: A helper on the farm.

15. POLARIZE: What penguins see with.

16. PRIMATE: Removing your spouse from in front of the TV.

17. RELIEF: What trees do in the spring.

18. RUBBERNECK: What you do to relax your wife.

19. SELFISH: What the owner of a seafood store does.

20. SUDAFED: Brought litigation against a government official. 
Again, I think this was from ArcaMax!!

And some random cartoons:

Anything worth taking seriously is worth making fun of----fishducky



  1. I LOVED learning the origin of those phrases. Thank you. I hope some of them stay in my head.
    The definitions were great too.

    1. Don't shake your head--when I do, my brains tend to fall out!!

  2. For quite some time I've tried to learn the origin of Sleep tight, don't let the bedbugs bite. Your sleep tight meaning makes sense, but I wonder what it has to do with bedbugs.


  3. So much here tyo laugh at. Love the Mike Peters cartoon. He always makes me laugh. I hope you're having a great week.

  4. I feel so enlightened today, Fran, with all these questions pondering in my mind now answered!

  5. I love the origin of sayings. Most of these I had never heard before.

  6. The origin of sayings is a favorite pursuit of mine! Loved the list.

    "...I'm a unicorn..." BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA....Fran, Fran, Fran. What did I do before I met ya?

  7. Now that's my kind of To-Do list!
    I knew the origin of sleep tight, but all the rest are new to me.

    1. I did NOTHING all day yesterday & I'm still not finished!!


Your comments make my day, which shows you how boring my life has become.