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North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Historically Speaking: The Whole Shebang, Lock, Stock and Barrel

By Tom Morrow

The American and English languages (yes, there is a distinct difference), we have used curious sayings that emanated from activities and social experiences.
Example where someone might say regarding a person receiving a number of items:
“You’ve got the entire amount… take the whole Kit and Caboodle … lock, stock and barrel.”
Back in the pre-Revolutionary War days, if you wanted to buy a musket (rifle), you had to go to three separate vendors – a barrel maker (blacksmith), a carpenter who carved the gun stock, and a maker of “flint locks” (the mechanism that includes the firing hammer and the lock that ignites the gun power to fire the weapon). Self-assembly was required.
As for Kit and Caboodle, that source is unknown.
To play “Cat and Mouse” with someone comes from early 20th century England when Parliament passed a law called the “Prisoners Discharge For Ill-Health Act.” It promptly became known as the “Cat & Mouse Act.” Hunger strikers would be released from prison because of ill-health, but could be re-arrested when they recovered.
Indian Giver: With the history of our nation regarding our ill-treatment of Native Americans, this term is self-explanatory.
The term “Break the Ice,” goes back more than four centuries when, at the beginning of spring, river boaters would break the ice in order to make passage. The more modern usage comes from the 1823 poems of “Don Juan” by Lord Byron, referring to the British people: “… and your cold people are beyond all price, once you’ve broken their confounded ice.”
In seafaring folklore, “Davy Jones’ Locker,” refers to a sailor’s hell beneath the sea. The verbiage comes from a book, “The Adventures of Peregrine Pickle,” written in 1751, by Tobias Smollett. In Chapter XIII, Peregrine and two fellow sailors attempt to frighten Commodore Trinnion by a dreaded ghost, which the trio had concocted. It worked so well that Trinnion was frightened one evening by exclaiming: “I’ll be damned if it wasn’t Davy Jones himself! I know him by his huge saucer eyes, his three rows of teeth and tail and the blue smoke that came out of his nostrils.” According to seafaring mythology, Davy Jones sits on the rigging during hurricanes and storms warning of death and disaster.
To call someone “Mad as a Hatter,” refers to a person not in their right mind, but did that term come from Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book “Alice in Wonderland?” No. it was used long before Carroll’s book. Hat makers used mercury in manufacturing headwear. After years of toiling in a hat factory, workers would often become mentally ill from mercury poisoning. The term was used to describe one of Carroll’s main characters.
It’s so cold it could “Freeze the Balls Off a Brass Monkey” is a sailing warship term, contrary to those in modern times who try to make it an indecent remark. Sailing warships of the 16th through 19th centuries were armed with cannons. Alongside each cannon were brass platforms, known as “monkeys,” holding stacks of cannon balls, making them conveniently available for gunners mates to grab them quickly to reload. With this explanation, during cold weather, the saying is self-explanatory.
“To Burn One’s Bridges” comes from the days of Caesar. When he would invade a country to conquer it, Caesar would burn all bridges his armies used to cross into the foreign territory. To Caesar, retreat was not an option. The burning of bridges was an incentive used for his officers and soldiers, giving them no alternative but to push ahead and conquer the enemy.
There are hundreds more, but if you have a favorite, send me an e-mail: quotetaker@msn.com
My book web site is back up. For free shipping on all my novels, go to: www.tomorrowsnovels.com

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Historically Speaking: The Whole Shebang, Lock, Stock and Barrel