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In speaking and in writing, there are many phrases that are used. But where did these phrases originate? What are their meanings? Researching phrases and how they originated is one way to come up with ideas for stories.
Birds of a feather flock together - This phrase has been in use since the mid 16th century. If you have ever watched birds flying through the sky, Iím sure you have noticed that birds do tend to flock together. Why? They tend to stay in groups for protection from predators.
Run the gauntlet - A gauntlet is a glove. In medieval times it was a glove made of mail or plate. Today it is a glove with an extended cuff for the wrist. But this phrase refers to neither of those. When a person runs the gauntlet, he or she goes through harsh treatment or criticism by those who arenít fond of him or her. In ancient times, a person was made to run the gauntlet as a form of punishment. This form of punishment was first written about in the mid 1600s. The one who ran the gauntlet was stripped to the waist. This person then ran between two rows of men who mercilessly beat him as he passed between them. The beatings received could be extremely severe, so severe that many died from them.
Barking mad - If someone is barking mad, they are intensely mad or insane. This phrase was first found in print in 1927 in the United States and referred to the sport of Auto-polo. It possibly came into use referring to rabid dogs.
Three sheets to the wind, - This is actually a nautical term. The sheets are not sails, but are instead ropes or chains that are fixed to the lower corners of sails to hold them in place. If three of these sheets are loose, then the sails are blowing about freely in the wind causing the boat to lurch about in the water as if drunk. If your character is only tipsy, then he could be described as being one sheet to the wind.
Red herring - Red herrings have come to be known as misleading clues thrown in to confuse the reader and draw his attention away from the truth. They are often used by writers of mystery and suspense. But what are red herrings? They are salted herrings that turn a reddish color when being smoked. So how in the world did red herring come to mean misleading clues? The theory is that it came from the practice of using smelly herrings to lay false trails so that the prey could escape detection by the hunting dogs. That is not very plausible, though. Back in the 1600s, there were no groups against hunting.
More phrases will be discussed in other articles.
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