Outdated Sayings & Lost Meanings

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Anonymous

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The other night I saw a programme on (amongst other things ) the development of the machine gun.

It seems that the expression 'the whole nine yards' actually referred to the nine yard rounds of ammunition that the early machine guns used, so that the expression 'the whole nine yards' came from when soldiers deployed the entire round in one go.

I have used the expression 'the whole nine yards' many times without knowing what it actually meant and that got me thinking that there are many expressions like this ;

'Get in the groove of the music' refers to the groove on an old vinyl record, or'Blonde Bombshell' refers to the flash and brightness of and exploding shell.

Though there are many more I don't know the meaning of ;

- 'Getting the 'Ump'
- 'The full Monty'
- 'Getting Stitched up'
-'Goodbye Dolly Grey'
 
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Anonymous

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Phrase Origins

I think there's an explanation of the full monty in the alt.english.usage faq, along with alternative explanations for 'the whole nine yards', and a lot of other stuff.
Sean
 

minordrag

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It's interesting (and a little sad) how much slang has been derived from war:

"Over the top"--from WWI trench warfare

"Flash in the pan"--used to denote a misfire from the ancient flintlock weapons. If the gunpowder in the pan (sparked off by the flint) wasn't enough to discharge the projectile, you only got a "flash in the pan."

"Quisling"--denoting a traitor, from WWII I believe

That's all I can remember. There must be hundreds more. Even the "thumbs up" hand signal was originally used to indicate that an airplane was in good flying shape.
 
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Anonymous

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On a more peaceful note, there are probably millions of kids growing up today who have no idea why we talk about 'dialling' a phone number.
 

filcee

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Minor Drag said:
It's interesting (and a little sad) how much slang has been derived from war:

"Over the top"--from WWI trench warfare

"Flash in the pan"--used to denote a misfire from the ancient flintlock weapons. If the gunpowder in the pan (sparked off by the flint) wasn't enough to discharge the projectile, you only got a "flash in the pan."

"Quisling"--denoting a traitor, from WWII I believe

That's all I can remember. There must be hundreds more. Even the "thumbs up" hand signal was originally used to indicate that an airplane was in good flying shape.
The two fingered sign, beloved of the British yob (and pretty much unknown by the rest of the world), reputedly came from a display by the Welsh longbowmen following the battle of Agincourt (14??). After the French had cut off the fingers of any bowman they captured, the victorious Welsh bowmen stuck two fingers up at the defeated French.
A tradition the average Brit still tries to keep alive to this day...
 

lopaka

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Minor Drag said:
It's interesting (and a little sad) how much slang has been derived from war:

"Quisling"--denoting a traitor, from WWII I believe.
Yup. Vidkun Quisling was a Norwegian politician who collaborated as part of a "independent" Nazi puppet government in WWII. Still quite usefull epithet under the right circumstances.
 

Dennis_De_Bacle

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IIRC 'The Full Monty' came from WW2 as well. Montagu Smith was a highly priced tailor and anyone buying a 3 piece suit from him was getting the full montagu and therefore well to do.
 

ginoide

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i remember hearing a different version, involving gen. montgomery and his super-rich breakfast...
 
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Anonymous

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I'm told that 'the whole nine yards' is a reference to the length of ammunition belts for the Browning .50s mounted in American heavy bombers.
I had previously assumed it was some kind of reference to their heavily armoured version of rugby.
 

carole

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'Poker faced', meaning the expressionless face of the experienced poker player which does not betray what sort of hand he's holding.

Carole
 

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I would like to know what "weird" really meant to people when the word came into being.

As I recall reading about while studying Beowulf, "weird" or "wyrd" at that time was taken to mean a mix between fate and destiny, although neither of those words really encompass a full definition.

But it's one of those great terms that seemed to have had metaphysical overtones at the time, but now has been reduced to just being different from the "norm" (whatever IT is:) )

Also, I know that the term "Jeep" for cars came from the Popeye creature Eugene the Jeep.

And is it true that the spelling for "Wendy" was unknown as a name until it's use in Peter Pan?
 
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Anonymous

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The name Wendy as a name on its own was introduced by JM Barrie. The daughter of a colleague of Barrie who could not pronounce her r's used to call him "fwendy-wendy". The little girl unfortunately died aged six, and Barrie used the name Wendy in memory of her. However, Wendy had been used previously as a shortened version of Gwendolyn but not as a proper name before Barrie put it in print.

Can anyone tell me the origin of the phrase "giving him down the banks" - I've only ever heard it in the Wirral / Ellesmere Port area used as an expression for telling someone off or shouting angrily.
 

stu neville

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Mr. R.I.N.G. said:
I would like to know what "weird" really meant to people when the word came into being.

As I recall reading about while studying Beowulf, "weird" or "wyrd" at that time was taken to mean a mix between fate and destiny, although neither of those words really encompass a full definition.
In Anglo Saxon, wyrd meant in effect "of nature" - as nature itself was seen as a sentient divine being, anyone who was wyrd, eg wyrd sisters, were those who were an aspect of nature and therefore of destiny itself. They could see the future, the past, the present and thus could see the complex interactions between them.

In short, wyrd meant "at one with everything". Which is why Grendel, whilst not intrinsically magic in himself (though briefly made invulnerable IIRC), is nonetheless described as wyrd as he is symbolic of nature as a whole challenging man's attempts to subdue it.
 

rynner2

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Mr. R.I.N.G. said:
Also, I know that the term "Jeep" for cars came from the Popeye creature Eugene the Jeep.
I heard that Jeep derived from GP, for General Purpose (vehicle), as used by US forces in WWII.

(There's also a British sailing dinghy called the GP 14, for similar reasons.)
 

ginoide

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Mr. R.I.N.G. said:
Also, I know that the term "Jeep" for cars came from the Popeye creature Eugene the Jeep.
yup
one of the cutest and most surreal cartoon characters ever, imho....


EDIT: uh-oh. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------
[Probably pronunciation of the letters GP, designation for this vehicle in the manufacturer's parts numbering system : G(overnment) + P, designator for 80-inch wheelbase reconnaissance car.]

at least according to this site
 
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Anonymous

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I don't think 'poker-faced' is outdated, since people still play poker and utilize said face even today.
 

Anome

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Originally posted by ginoide
[B[Probably pronunciation of the letters GP, designation for this vehicle in the manufacturer's parts numbering system : G(overnment) + P, designator for 80-inch wheelbase reconnaissance car.]

at least according to this site
That's a new one. I thought it was from General Purpose. Don't have a cite, though.
 

carole

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In the bad old days of the British Navy women often went to sea with their men and, naturally enough, children were born on board. As navy ships were not meant to cater for family life, births often took place between two guns on the lower deck of a boat, with perhaps a bit of canvas rigged up to offer some privacy. This was the origin of the saying 'Son of a Gun'.

Carole
 
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Anonymous

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Good little website

Really interesting discussion you've got here.

recently I was trying to establish where the term "At sixes and sevens" came from, and i came across this website. Malheureusement, although my understanding of "at sixes......." was hopelessly flawed, I did get what (according to Herr Quinion at least) was the correct origination.

Just thought i'd share:

Where words come from
 
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Anonymous

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interesting stuff. I'd always thought that "the whole nine yards" was a reference to unfurling all of a ship's sail when haste was needed.
 
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Anonymous

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So does anyone know what the origin of 'Getting the Ump' means then ?
 
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Anonymous

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On one evening in '84, temporarily lost in Glasgow, I was accosted by a young woman inquiring if I was 'looking for business?' Morbidly intrigued, I asked what was on offer, and she replied with a menu of -ahem- 'services' that included:

"Tenner for a gam'."

Pardon? I then realised that I'd heard her correctly and she did in fact mean 'gam' as in short for 'gamouche', an archaic term denoting oral sex which I'd assumed had long gone out of use.
 
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Anonymous

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HAARP said:
So does anyone know what the origin of 'Getting the Ump' means then ?
'Getting the hump' might be something to do with a persons posture when they are sulking?
 

beakboo1

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"Giving up the ghost". What's that all about then? :confused:
 

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Filcee said:
The two fingered sign, beloved of the British yob (and pretty much unknown by the rest of the world), reputedly came from a display by the Welsh longbowmen following the battle of Agincourt (14??). After the French had cut off the fingers of any bowman they captured, the victorious Welsh bowmen stuck two fingers up at the defeated French.
A tradition the average Brit still tries to keep alive to this day...
The same symbol means the same thing in Japan, hence good ol' President Clinton flipping the bird to people there through a misunderstanding.

I prefer the reverse of said gesture - the "V for Victory" sign used often and publicly by Churchill in WW2, which came to be misinterpreted and misused as a "peace" symbol by war protesters in the late 1960s.
 

JamesWhitehead

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The two-fingered salute is certainly ancient, but I'd understood it to be
the sign of the horns, signalling a cuckold.

As for the Hump, I'd always associated it with that notoriously bad-tempered
beastie, the camel. I think there is a Kipling story called "How the Camel
got his hump". :confused:
 

TheOriginalCujo

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I was amazed to find out what 'Hoisted by your own petard' meant. I had always asumed that a petard was some kind of flag but one day when my Dad had got a new dictionary and we were bored we looked it up.

A petard is a kind of shaped charge used for blowing holes in castle walls and doors. Hoisted origonaly meant simply 'raised into the air'. So it's a medieval way of saying 'blown up by your own bomb'.

Cujo
 
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