By Charles Earle Funk, Tom Funk
Read or Download 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions from White Elephants to a Song & Dance PDF
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Extra resources for 2107 Curious Word Origins, Sayings and Expressions from White Elephants to a Song & Dance
47 or fetch) over the coals Until comparatively recent times the sin of heresy was, in many countries, punishable by death. In England, during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, one found guilty of departing from the creed and tenets of the church might be condemned to death by burning. Thus, the earliest uses of this expression, back in the six teenth century, referred to the literal punishment of heretics one would be fetched over the coals literally unless he speedily reformed his actions and beliefs.
But it comes straight from Old English; it then meant, as now, a payment, or, especially, one's share in the cost of some entertainment; later it came SO mean also a tax. Hence, "to go scot free" is, literally, to be free of payment or tax. a bolt from the blue It is a bolt of lightning from the clear, blue sky that is meant. Such a phenomenon is, at least, unexpected and is also startling. Thus the news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor was a bolt from the blue, in the figurative sense. Literary record of the use of the saying dates only to 1888, but it is likely that it existed in common speech many years earlier.
The sole right of the common people to enter these forests without permission was, it is said, for the removal of dead wood from the ground or dead branches from the trees; of the latter, only such branches as could be brought down "by hook or by crook," that is, by the use of no stouter instrument than a reaper's hook or a shepherd's crook. But in order to satisfy the meaning, "by fair means or foul," we must assume that some of the ancient shepherds found an excuse to tend their sheep with crooks that were exceedingly long or unusually heavy.