Monday, December 19, 2011

Word Trivia

Check out this Trivia about language and the origins of a few words and “sayings.”
1.     “Aromatherapy” is a term coined by French chemist René Maurie Gattefossé in the 1920’s to describe the practice of using essential oils taken from plants, flowers, roots, seeds, etc., in healing.

2.     In the 19th century, craftsmen who made hats were known to be excitable and irrational, as well as to tremble with palsy and mix up their words.  Such behavior gave rise to the familiar expression “Mad as a hatter.”  The disorder, called Hatter’s shakes, was caused by chronic mercury poisoning from the solution used to treat the felt from which they made their hats.  Attacking the central nervous system, the toxin led to behavioral symptoms.

3.     The term “bonfire” comes from using old bones, stored up through the summer, to make a fire with in winter and to keep warm.  It is also thought to come from the 1500s when the Bishop of London named Edward Bonner ordered the burning at the stake of over 300 men and women, because of their lack of faith.  Hence the name Bon Fire.

4.     “Burning the candle at both ends” comes from the days before electricity when clerks to wealthy people would work late into the night.  Of course, they used a candle to light their work.  To make more light, they would light both ends of the candle, but the candle would burn out twice as fast!  So, the term came to mean someone who would work hard but wear themselves out.

5.     “Long in the tooth,” meaning “old,” was originally used to describe horses.  As horses age, their gums recede, giving the impression that their teeth are growing.  The longer the teeth look, the older the horse.

6.     “Second string,” meaning “replacement or backup,” comes from the Middle Ages.  An archer always carried a second string in case the one on his bow broke.

7.     The “O” when used as a prefix in Irish surnames means “descendant of.”

8.     The idiom “pillar of salt” means to have a stroke, or to become paralyzed and dead.  Remember when Abraham’s nephew Lot and his family were leaving Sodom and Gomorrah?  The Bible says Lot’s wife looked back in longing to return to the place they were leaving and “turned into a pillar of salt” as a result.

9.     The last thing to happen is the “ultimate.”  The next-to-last is the “penultimate,” and the second-to-last is the “antepenultimate.” 

10. The phrase “sleep tight” originated from when mattresses were set upon ropes woven through the bed frame.  To remedy sagging ropes, one would use a bed key to tighten the rope.

So, “sleep tight” and “don’t let the bedbugs bite!”

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