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Origins of Common Phrases


Were you ever threatened to read the riot act to you? Did you know that there was an actual riot act to be read? In 18th century England, when a group of people gathered together, they were considered a threat to the peace of the community. In situations like these, an official would read a portion of the Riot Act to the mob to break up the gathering and return to their homes. The Riot Act was established in 1715 and gave the British government the authority to disperse a crowd of twelve people or more. Anyone who stayed after one hour after being told to leave, was removed by force.

Do you or anyone you know own a large, awkward or weighty object? If so, this is called a white elephant. White elephants used to be highly sacred animals in Thailand and was on their national flag until 1917. However, according to a Thailand legend, these animals served as a punishment to some people in the southeastern Asian country. You see if someone angered a Siamese king, he would have presented this animal as a gift to the offending person. Now while it may seem like a reward of sorts, any of you who have raised elephants will know that they are very expensive to feed, house, and care for and usually drove the offender into financial ruin. How’s that for punishment?

I have an idea. After you have finished reading my article, why not go out and paint the town red? This phrase had likely come about from a wild, drunken night in 1837. In the English town of Melton Mowbray one night, the Marquis of Waterford took a group of friends out and they got very inebriated. The Marquis was a well-known drunkard and troublemaker anyway but this particular night he was very mischievous. The Marquis and his friends went about the town after getting sloshed and caused a little vandalism. They did things like pulling knockers off of doors, smashing flower pots and even broke some windows. They finished their wild night by painting a tollgate a red. They did the same thing on some doors of the homes in the town and even painted a swan statue red. Of course, the Marquis and his friends later paid for the damages but that is why a wild night is referred to as painting the town red.

Did you ever wake up on the wrong side of the bed? Of course this means that someone is in a bad mood. This phrase came about when people who write left handed or favor their left side of their body or anything, really, on the left is considered disturbing, so innkeepers used to make sure that the left side of the bed was pushed against the wall of the rooms so people would have to get out of bed on the right side.

Now you know the origins of some popular phrases so go ahead and show your true colors by spilling the beans about them. This way you can sleep tight and won’t have to have a piece of humble pie.
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Content copyright © 2015 by Vance Rowe. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Vance Rowe. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Vance Rowe for details.

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