Thursday, April 14, 2016

Some word and phrase origins

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Break the ice

Meaning: 

To say or do something to start a conversation; to say or do something that gets people to relax.

Origin:

Originally the expression meant making a path for others to follow, as in breaking ice to allow boats to navigate. This dates back to the 16th century. In the later 1600’s the meaning shifted to that of establishing a relaxed relationship. When specialist ice breaking ships were introduced 200 years later, ice breaking reverted in part to its original meaning and such ships came to be known as icebreakers.
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Butter up

Meaning: 

To flatter someone.

Origin: 

It was customary in ancient India to throw balls of butter at statues of gods in order to seek favour, giving rise to the expression ‘butter up’.
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Brothel

Meaning:

A house of prostitution.

Origin:

In the 14th century the word bropel meant a ruined or degenerate person. This term came to be applied to prostitutes and the place where they worked was known as a brothel-house. Later the house was dropped.

Despite the similarity in appearance and meaning, the word is etymologically unrelated to bordel or bordello, which come from Portuguese and Italian respectively.

Btw, the above pic is an actual brothel re light that was illuminated at night outside a brothel during the American gold rush days. Areas with brothels were accordingly known as red light districts.
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Martini

Meaning:

An alcoholic drink.

Origin:

Martinis are named after the city of Martinez, California, where the drink was invented in the 19th century. Originally known as a Martinez cocktail, by the end of that century the name had changed to martini.
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Turn a blind eye

Meaning: 

To ignore situations, facts, or reality

Origin: 

The phrase to turn a blind eye is attributed to an incident in the life of Admiral Horatio Nelson. Nelson was blinded in one eye early in his Royal Navy career. During the Battle of copenhagen in 1801 the cautious Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, in overall command of the British forces, sent a signal to Nelson's forces ordering them to discontinue the action. Naval orders were transmitted via a system of signal flags at that time. When this order was given to the more aggressive Nelson's attention, he lifted his telescope up to his blind eye, said, "I really do not see the signal," and most of his forces continued to press home the attack. The frigates supporting the line-of-battle ships did break off, in one case suffering severe losses in the retreat.

There is a misconception that the order was to be obeyed at Nelson's discretion, but this is contradicted by the fact that it was a general order to all the attacking ships (some of whom did break off), and that later that day Nelson openly stated that he had "fought contrary to orders". Sir Hyde Parker was recalled in disgrace and Nelson appointed Commander-in-Chief of the fleet following the battle.
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Bury the hatchet

Meaning: 

To stop a conflict and make peace

Origins: 

When negotiating peace, Native Americans would literally bury all their hatchets, knives, clubs, and tomahawks as a symbol of wanting peace. This happened when the Puritans and native Americans made peace and came to be used as a general expression.


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