You are here: Home » Languages » The Origin of Famous Sayings

The Origin of Famous Sayings

Have you ever wondered where sayings that we use everyday came from?

“A shot in the arm”

It means to stimulate.

It began in the states during the early part of the 20th century. The term “shot” is American slang used to describe a medicinal injection of a drug.

“Back to the drawing board”

It means to start anew after failure.

It is an American expression, which began during World War II.

“Can’t hold a candle to”

It means that one is unworthy to hold even the lowest position. It dates back to the days when an apprentice’s sole duty was to hold a candle for his superior to see by.

“The darkest hour is just before dawn”

It means that there is always hope no matter how dire the circumstances.

It dates back to the late 1700’s and penned by the English historian and theologian Thomas Fuller. It is unknown if this expression was his idea or not.

“Eat, drink and be merry”

It comes from the King James version of the Bible.

Ecclesiastes VIII 15.

“Katie bar the door”

It means that trouble is coming so one must prepare for it.

It is virtually unheard of outside of the U.S. but it’s unknown if it actually originated there or not. The first known written version is by James Whitcomb Riley in his poem “When Lide Married Him” written in 1894.

“Keep your hands clean”/”Keep your nose clean”

It means to say out of trouble.

The expression originated in 18th century England as “keep one’s hands clean” in church sermons that warned of the evil of masturbation.  As the phrase caught on it crossed the ocean to America but for some reason by the time it reached American soil it had not only changed to “keep your nose clean” but its meaning had also changed. It now meant to stay out of trouble of any kind. It also came to mean to stay out of other peoples business.

Liked it
User Comments
  1. swatilohani

    On June 2, 2009 at 6:08 am

    great sharing of origins

  2. hfj

    On June 2, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Well done and written. I use them all from time to time.

  3. Daisy Peasblossom

    On June 2, 2009 at 2:30 pm

    Well-done, well written. So many of our younger ones do not recognize these expressions.

  4. Lex92

    On June 2, 2009 at 2:36 pm

    I always wondered where the saying “back to the drawing board’ originated! Thanks!

  5. PR Mace

    On June 2, 2009 at 7:08 pm

    I had never heard of Katie Bar the Door. Excellent post, Nick. Well done.

  6. Purnomosidhi

    On June 2, 2009 at 10:03 pm

    Thanx for the info

  7. R.B. Parsley

    On June 2, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Nick, I always wondered where some of these got their start! Now I know!! But I’m like Pam, I hadn’t ever heard Katie Bar the Door, but I have heard Katie get your gun. But where it originated from, I have no idea. Excellent article Nick!!! A very good subject to write about. Keep ‘em comin’ buddy!!! Good to see you back.


  8. Sheila M

    On June 3, 2009 at 11:25 am


Post Comment
Powered by Powered by Triond