Wonder who said that first? It was probably a sailor
Have you ever wondered where many of our everyday sayings came from? Many have nautical roots. For example:
Taken aback: Means taken by surprise, stopped in one’s tracks. “Aback” is a nautical term for sudden wind change in which the sails flatten against the mast, which would not only slow the ship down but also drive it backwards if the winds were strong enough.
Cut and run: Escaping a difficult situation. In the 1700s, pulling up a heavy anchor required many men and considerable time. Ships under attack could sustain considerable damage before the anchor was dislodged and raised, so it became standard practice to chop the hemp anchor line with an axe to allow the ship to “run on the wind,” also referred to as “cut and run.”
Freeze the balls off a brass monkey: Very cold, so you should dress warmly. Guns on 18th-century Man-of-War ships were fired by gunpowder stored in a different part of the ship for safety reasons. Young boys, who were small enough to slip through tight spaces, hauled the powder along tiny passages. They were known as Powder Monkeys and the brass trays used to hold the cannonballs became known as Brass Monkeys.
In cold weather, the cannonballs stored on the lowest level of the pyramid would contract, break loose and spill onto the floor — thus “cold enough to freeze the balls of a brass monkey.” Some phrases not of nautical influence: Egg someone on: To encourage someone to do something foolish or risky. Eggian is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning to spur someone on, to encourage or incite.
Keep your chin up: Means don’t take your troubles to bed with you. In Scotland, it’s “Keep your pecker up.” Hang your troubles on a chair with your trousers or drop them in a glass of water with your teeth.
I don’t know what you call these or where they came from, but I like them: One sandwich short of a picnic. One screw short of a hardware store. A few cards short of a deck. A few fries short of a Happy Meal. Have a nice week. Fred Trainor is a retired broadcaster living in Okanagan Falls. Email: email@example.com