Old Colonial era idioms & sayings we use today

get off your high horse – you need to  stop behaving arrogantly – army leaders, nobility and so forth.  led parades on horseback, as an indication of their superiority and to increase their prominence.

maintain your ft to the hearth – a inquisitor to utilized  flames to the ft as a  technique for extracting confession for heresy, through the Crusade’s.

haul somebody over the coals – in the Middle Ages, suspected heretics have been actually hauled over a mattress of burning coals. In the event that they survived they have been thought-about harmless, and guilty if they did not.

caught with or pants down – caught unawares tending to natures name.

value an arm and a leg – a painter of a portrait charged  extra he needed to moreover paint arms and legs on the subject.

hold you nose to the grindstone – knife grinders when sharpening blades was to lie flat on their fronts with their faces close to the grindstone as a way to maintain the blades towards the stone

to beeline it – from the conduct of bees. When a bee finds nectar it returns to the hive and displays to the opposite bees the course of the discover. The other bees then ‘make a beeline’ for it.

as mad as a hatter – the impact of Mercury exposure used within the manufacture of felt hats lead to mercury poisoning, one of the symptoms of which is madness.

you have got a screw unfastened – as machines started for use within the 1700’s, screws often loosened causing the machine to interrupt down. In case you are having a malfunction, you’ll have a screw unfastened as properly.

not match to hold a candle (not match to hold a match) – a snide comment  suggesting that one is so unfit, he can’t hold a match or candle for an additional.

the whole none yards –rich enough to purchase the entire suite that took 9 yeards. A lesser suite might not have matching vest, pants, and so forth

dressed to the nines – he seems to be like he purchased the most effective. From purchasing one of the best suite utilizing 9 yards of fabric to make it..

face the music – from the custom of disgraced officers being ‘drummed out’ of their regiment.

reduce from the identical material – when making suits, tailors use material from the same roll  of fabric to ensure the items match perfectly.

dwelling excessive on the hog -The perfect and costliest cuts of ham come from the higher a part of a pig’s haunch

within the nick of time – even into the 18th century, some businessmen stored monitor of transactions and time by carving notches (nicks) on a “tally stick.” Someone arriving just earlier than the subsequent nick was carved would arrive in time to save lots of the subsequent day’s curiosity – within the nick of time.

black ball – the expression is derived from 18th century clubs. New purposes for membership have been examined by the ruling committee – secret votes have been then forged by putting balls into a container. Purple balls meant acceptance and black ones rejection. It only needed one black ball for the appliance to fail.

don’t let him  pull the wool over your eyes– road thugs would pull the wig (wool)  down over the victims eyes in an effort to confuse him. Bigwigs have been value robbing

put the damper on it  – a damper is part of a piano which presses on the strings and cuts out their sounds.

square meal –  from the sq. plates used to serve the food on .  (Used reminiscent of “You should get your “three squares”  or  “three square meals” every single day).

in a pickle– trapped without obvious means of escape as pickle in a jar.


getting your goat – this  refers to an previous English (Welsh?) perception that retaining a goat in the barn would have a relaxing impact on the cows, therefore producing extra milk. When one needed to antagonize/terrorize one’s enemy, you’d abscond with their goat rendering their milk cows less- to non-productive.

take it with  a grain of salt – salt was thought to have healing properties and to be an antidote to poisons.

at the drop of a hat – instantly – from a standard approach of starting a race within the 1800’s.

dyed within the wool –  from the method of coloring wool, which may be finished at numerous levels; to dye ‘in the wool’, before spinning is the earliest stage it may be achieved, and it provides probably the most thorough effect.

take a gander – (gander was earlier the widespread word for a goose) a goose craning its neck to take a look at something.

pull out all of the stops – apply greatest effort – from the metaphor of pulling out all of the stops on an organ, which would improve the quantity.

caught red-handed – It’s based mostly simply on the metaphor of a assassin being caught with blood nonetheless on their arms,

a red-letter day – a big day – saints days and holidays have been printed in purple as opposed to the traditional black in almanacs and diaries

it has a hoop of fact – sounds or seems plausible – from the custom of testing whether cash have been genuine by bouncing on a tough surface;

post-haste – from the previous path written on letters: ‘Haste, post, haste’. ‘Post’ here meant ‘postman’; it earlier meant the horsemen stationed at intervals along post-roads, whose obligation was to convey mail to the subsequent stage.

get it straight from the horse’s mouth – this is an previous farming expression. When farmers purchase horses, they appear of their mouths to see the tooth. The farmer might discover out rather a lot from taking a look at a horse’s tooth, such as the age and bodily health of the horse. The individual making an attempt to sell the horse may fake that it is in a fit condition when actually it isn’t, so farmers want to depend on wanting on the tooth.

whipping boy –boys designated to take the punishment for  them- someone who is repeatedly blamed or punished for an additional’s wrong-doing – as princes, Edward VI and Charles I had boys (respectively Barnaby Fitzpatrick and Mungo Murray) to take their punishment beatings for them, hence ‘whipping boy’. Around the similar time Henry IV of France loved the identical privilege; his whipping

the third diploma – this phrase origin might be discovered inside the Masonic Lodge. Inside the lodge there are 3 levels; the Entered Apprentice, the Fellowcraft and the Grasp Mason. The Mason’s questioning for the third-degree was recognized to be an intense ordeal, scary and unsightly. Additionally, it is extra physically difficult that the first two degrees. The time period has come for use for any lengthy an arduous questioning or interrogation.

put via the mill – an allusion to grain being crushed by a millstone. suffers an ordeal

not value a plug nickel– plugs are the holes made in cash to extract some metallic which can be utilized for other functions. Coins so tampered with are not authorized tender. Nickels being coins of small denomination lend themselves for use on this phrase.

chiseler – a thief who steal parts of cash chiselsing off small items.

clip joint – location where parts of cash are clipped off by thieves.

getting fleeced – being robbed  –  as a sheep isrobbed  of it’s fleece.

put your greatest foot forward – a gentleman upon greeting others literary puts his greatest foot forward extending his leg as he takes a bow.

an enormous shot– an individual  receiving a big cannon salute.


feather in your cap – it was once a standard follow to award a feather to a soldier who had killed an enemy. These feathers have been worn on the helmet, or different headgear and have been thought-about symbols of social standing much as trendy troopers obtain and show medals.

pull out all the stops – this phrase comes from the pipe organs in churches and classical music. Every pipe has a “stop” that acts as a baffle that controls the amount of airflow. The quantity of the organ could be adjusted by including or eradicating the stops. By pulling out all the stops, all pipes are enjoying at their loudest.

a wind fall – when a storm blew the tree down, it might be claimed by anyone… a wind fall.  An sudden little bit of  luck

read the Riot Act to you – The Riot Act of 1715 was meant to deal with teams gathering and threatening the peace. A magistrate might read a part of the Act commanding individuals to disburse within the King’s identify or face motion. Within the 1880s People began using the time period to mean “scold”.

having a area day  – citizens would collect yearly on muster day to observe the militia drill, take pleasure in food and drinks, socialize and have a fun time.

Residence & Fireside

sq. meal – a dinner plate was a sq. piece of wood with a “bowl” carved out to hold your serving of the perpetual stew that was all the time cooking over the hearth.

dessert – after finishing a  meal in  the dinning room, the dinning room  can be desserted , and other people would go to the parlor to eat sweets.

straightforward chair – a  cushioned chair tht concealed a chamber pot!

At the finish of my tether a tether is a rope, which is used to limit the liberty of grazing animals by tying one end around their neck and the other to a stake within the ground.

threshold – a houses with dust or stone flooring have been coated with threshing to keep the ground heat . Individuals added a picket board to hold the threshing in — a threshold

sleep tight – earlier than field springs have been in use, previous mattress frames used rope pulled tightly between the body rails to help a mattress. If the rope turned unfastened, the mattress would sag making for uncomfortable sleeping. Tightening the ropes would help one get a very good night time sleep.

don’t let the mattress bugs chew – mattresses have been full of corn husks or threshing which attracted bed busg. However with colonials not taking baths however every a number of months, certainly bed bugs found a  snug habitat within the bedding .

pot luck – what was obtainable, not figuring out for positive what you may receive. eat no matter was in the oven pot… taken a chance

eating humble pie – servants ate “umbel pie” which was created from deer waste while their Master and his visitors had the better cuts of meat.

pop goes the weasel – the yarn winder (weasel) would make a “pop” sound when it was completed winding.

turn the tables –  tables only had one completed aspect. The opposite aspect, inexpensive to make, was extra rough. When the household was alone, they ate on the rough aspect to maintain the great aspect nice for firm. When firm came, the entire prime lifted off and was turned to its good aspect.

chilly shoulder – when a visitors would over stay their welcome as home visitors, the hosts would (as an alternative of feeding them good, heat meals) serve their too-long staying friends the chilly meat,  thereby giving  them  the COLD SHOULDER.

dwelling excessive on the hog – a  perosn who ate or served the costliest part of meat (the shoulder) was dwelling properly.

chew the fats–  minimize off somewhat to dried fatback to chew with the visitors when sitting round for a gab session

to salt away – salt the meat to preserve it, to reserve it  for the longer term.

hit the hay – sleep on bedding of straw


hush puppies – to quiet the hungry barking pet canine when frying up the corn bread, some can be tossed to them along with the verbal admonishment “hush puppy”.

deliver residence the  bacon – in case you introduced house the bacon, you have been incomes enough to feed your family nicely

strike whereas the iron is scorching – in working with metallic  the most effective results came from putting the iron whereas it was nonetheless scorching.

board—the desk was often just a board  in most houses or many small institutions.

a boarding home – provided a mattress and board (table)

to turn the tables –the top of the desk was clean and the beneath aspect tough. The table board was typically turned over for the messy affair of eating.

chairman of the board– the top of the family sat on his chair at the head of the table or board and the women and youngsters sat on the bench alongside the aspect of the table

board video games – games performed on the board (desk).

pay throughout the board – pay everybody who’s on the board (table)

protecting every little thing above board –  to keep your arms or playing cards on the desk where they might be seen.

to burn the candle at each ends– to mild a candle at both ends to provide off extra mild.

hit the sack – a sack is a bed mattress. Early mattresses have been typically created from a material sack .

Gun Related

an extended shot -a useless attempt  when firing at a distant goal.

point-blank –literally firing from such an in depth range as to make certain of hitting the goal.

going off half-cocked – a weapon half-cocked is the security position  of the weapon. An individual who was too anxious,  might overlook to  cock his weapon absolutely so that it might shoot.

a pores and skin flint – someone too thrifty to use new flint, taking  a knife and chipping  or skinning pieces from the previous flint till it is serviceable.

a flash in a pan – a misfire when solely the powder within the pan lights but fails to ignite the facility within the barrel.

lock, stock and barrel  – the three elements of a gun – lock (firing mechanism), stock (wood), barrel (metallic tube). Buying a  entire weapon can be to purchase it lock, inventory and barrel.

set your sights – choosing your goal in your gun sight

taking lifeless purpose – set your sights  to kill your target

maintain your powder dry– be ready for motion

hand me one other spherical – hand me a  spherical musket ball

chew the bullet – the follow of chewing on a bullet when being doctored when no painkiller was out there.

underneath the gun – means laboring underneath a menace of a gun pointed at you. Either you finish fast, otherwise you get shot.

brief  sighted – can’t see the goal

out of sight – not in your gun sights any longer

give it your greatest shot– take your time and make the shot good

a brief fuse– a short fuse on a cannon would end in a quick firing. A brief fuse on a person can be referring to their quick temper  going off.


Searching Related

beat around the bush – beating bushes scared birds out of their hiding locations within the bushes – to waste time  making an attempt to flush your recreation  beating adjacent bushes intead of the one include the gamet.

loaded for bear– having loaded the heaviest measurement shot and bigger load of powder

barking up the mistaken tree – from a confused canine

glad searching ground – heaven for the hunter

a sitting duck– utterly exposed and unaware of the menace

get your geese in a row– line up your shot

give it your greatest shot – do your greatest

hound to dying–  chasing the sport with the hound canine until the sport dies from exhaustion

barking up the incorrect tree –  canine mistaken  to video games location

like capturing geese in a pond – so easy to hit a sitting duck

it’s in the bag – the game is put within the bag

Ship Related

stunned – a sudden shift in wind to return up blowing the sails back towards the masts, placing the ship in grave hazard of getting the masts break off and rendering the ship completely helpless. The ship was bowled over.

groggy – comes from the outline of the sensation that many British sailors experienced once they would drink too much “grog,”-  a mix of rum and water.

armed to the tooth – this can be a pirate phrase originating in Port Royal Jamaica within the 1600’s. Carrying  a knife in their tooth for max arms functionality.

down within the doldrums – depressed lazy state – doldrums have been an space of the ocean near the equator between the NE and SE trade winds, noted for calms, sudden squalls and unpredictable winds.

steer the best way the crow flyes- the crow, was a vital a part of the navigation gear on sailing ships. These land-loving birds have been carried on aboard to assist the ship discover land that was out of sight. When the crows have been released,  the chook’s invariably headed in the direction of land. The ships  helmsman was informed to steer the best way the crow flyes.

crow’s nest – as ships grew and the lookouts stood watch in a bathtub situated high on the primary mast, the identify “crow’s nest” was given to this tub becausee this  is the place  crows  released from their cage to hunt land.

don’t go overboard – letting your pleasure cause you leap from the ship earlier than you’re prepared.

to the bitter end –at the finish of your rope-  from the metaphor of a rope being payed out until to the ‘bitts’, which have been the posts on the deck of a ship to which ropes have been secured. When the rope had been prolonged to the bitter end there was no extra left.


Ship Related

clean bill of well being – this extensively used time period has its origins within the “Bill of Health”, a doc issued to a ship displaying that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic or an infection at the time of departure.

going to the top – the “head” aboard a Navy ship is the toilet. The term comes from the days of crusing ships when the place for the crew to alleviate themselves was all the best way forward on both aspect of the bowsprit, to which the figurehead was fixed.

studying the ropes –studying all of the names and uses of the strains on the ship

toe the road – the crew would  be referred to as to order placing their toes on a seam of the deck to take care of a straight line.

scuttlebutt – the cask from which the ship’s crew took their consuming water — like a water fountain — was the “scuttlebutt”.  Salilors would gather around the “scuttlebutt”  the hear the latetest news or gossip,

clean invoice of health – this extensively used term has its origins within the “Bill of Health”, a doc issued to a ship displaying that the port it sailed from suffered from no epidemic or an infection on the time of departure.

son of a gun– a defamatory or abusive phrase or phrase utilized to boys conceived between the cannon aboard ship.

at unfastened ends – from the unraveling of the ends of rigging ropes on a sailing ship.


busting your chops – on the flip of the century, sporting very lengthy sideburns– referred to as mutton chops or lamb chops was in vogue. A bust within the chops was to get hit in the face.

hold your shirt on – the prelude to a fistfight was to remove your shirt. Shirts required numerous labor to make and have been costlier than today. Somebody considering of beginning a struggle may take off his shirt to stop injury.

caught red-handed – it’s based mostly on the metaphor of a felony of assault being caught with blood still on their palms.

feather in your cap – it was once a standard follow to award a feather to a soldier who had killed an enemy. These feathers have been worn on the helmet, or different headgear and have been symbols of social status a lot as trendy troopers obtain and display medals.

bury the hatchet – when making peace, native People used to bury weapons to point out that preventing had ended and enemies have been now at peace. Today, the idiom means to make up with a good friend after an argument or struggle.

over a barrel – comes from laying somebody over a barrel for a whipping  or punishment which concerned holding somebody over a barrel of boiling oil, and so forth. where the options for the victim are to comply with calls for or be dropped within the barrel.

chew the mud – how the dying soldiers had fallen with their faces in the dust.


spinster – single lady – in Saxon occasions a lady was not thought-about match for marriage till she might spin yarn properly. Apparently, and in comparable chauvanistic vein, the word ‘wife’ derives from the Anglo-Saxon ‘wyfan’, to weave, next after spinning in the cloth-making course of.

thoughts your personal Bee’s Wax – this came from the days when smallpox was a standard illness that brought on disfigurement.  Those that survived the illness have been left with pock marks on their physique and face.   Women would fill within the pock marks with beeswax.   Nevertheless when the weather was very heat the wax may soften.   Nevertheless it was not the factor to do for one woman to inform another that her makeup was melting.

saving or dropping face – the noble women and gentlemen of the late 1700s wore a lot makeup to impress one another. If they sat too near the warmth of the fireside, the makeup would melt and “lose face.”

crack a smile– when you did have too much wax on your face and happento  smile, you might crack your wax, particularly when it was chilly outdoors.


Tavern Associated

chalk it up  – to assist keep in mind, a tavern maintain, may use chalk to mark upon his wall the bill of

a patron who wished to pay at a later time. This was a reminder to collect owed cash.

higher crust  – bread was divided in response to standing. The lesser class obtained the underside which may be burned while and the better type acquired the highest, or the golden brown uppercrust.

room and board – the word “ board” comes from the consuming table often only one board, typically two, set on trestles, making an extended slender surface to eat from. Coming to dinner was referred to as “coming to the board,” a table material was known as “board clothes,”

turn the tables – the desk only had one completed aspect. The other aspect, inexpensive to make, was extra tough. When the household was alone, they ate on the tough aspect to maintain the great aspect nice for firm. When firm came, the entire prime lifted off and was turned to its good aspect.

money on the barrelhead  – cash would have to be positioned on the heads of the barrels (used as tables) when drinks have been offered came to mean instant cost for service.

thoughts your P’s & Q’s  – maintain monitor of what number of Pint and Quarts you will have consumed

put in my two cents value  – has its origin within the recreation of poker. When enjoying poker you need to make a small guess earlier than the playing cards are dealt referred to as an “ante” to begin play in that hand.

pitcher— a leather jug coated with pitch to hold it’s form

Merchant & Tradesman Related

a bakers  dozen  – bakers as soon as gave an extra roll for every dozen bought, thus the 13 have been referred to as a baker’s dozen.

an in depth shave – in the previous, scholar barbers discovered to shave on clients. If they shaved too shut, their shoppers could be reduce or even barely escape critical damage. Today, we use this idiom if a person narrowly escapes disaster.

a powder room – a closet where a person or lady of the 1700s might have a wig re-powdered,

blockhead – from picket head varieties used to make and keep wigs.

reduce from the identical material –  if you’re making a go well with, the jacket and trousers ought to be reduce from the identical piece of fabric to make sure an ideal match, since there could also be variations in colour, weave and so forth. between batches of cloth.   Only if the whole suite is reduce from the same piece of fabric can we make sure of the match.

the entire 9 yards  – when ordering a set of clothes, a proper suite will take 9 yards of fabric. A klesser suite without vest and matching weave might take 5 or 6 yards of fabric.

let the cat out of the bag – a dishonest farmer, claiming to be selling a younger pig, may substitute a cat or another worthless animal in a tied bag.

a pig in a poke – is clearly related; poke is an previous word for a small sack and the entire expression means ‘something bought or received without prior examination or knowledge’.

within the pits – the sawman of the two man group who had to noticed from underneath the lumber in the pit.



When digging up graves for relocation, coffins have been opened. Some coffins have been discovered to have scratch marks on the inside of the lid. It was then realized that that they had been burying individuals alive. Statistics have been stored and it was found that one out of 25 coffins opened had scratch marks on the internal lids.

saved by the bell an concept was introduced for the better prevention of being buried alive. The thought was to drill a hole within the lid of the coffin, tie a string on their wrist of the deceased and lead it by means of the coffin and up by way of the ground and tie it to a bell on the limb of a tree or pole positioned close by.

graveyard shift – someone who would sit out within the graveyard all night time to pay attention for the bell and who might dig up the coffin if the bell rang.

lifeless ringer – the one that was saved by the bell

kill with kindness – from the story of how Draco met his demise, by being smothered and suffocated by caps and cloaks thrown onto him at the theatre of Aegina, from spectators displaying their appreciation of him, 590 BC.

hold a wakelifeless have been laid out on the kitchen table for a few days to attend and see if they might wake up, therefore the customized of holding a  ‘wake.”

What is it?

Colonial Gadgets                        Was what?

A) Noggin a small mug or cup of ovens

B) Pipkin a small cooking pot

C) Trencher a picket plate used on the table

D) Cricket a low footstool

E) Peel software used to take loaves out

F)Flagon a vessel used to serve liquids

G)Huckaback a stout linen material used for towels

H)Manumit to liberate from slavery

I)Riddle a coarse sieve used for separating chaff

J)Chaise one horse carriage for pleasure

Colonial Medical  Illnesses

Match the Colonial Disease Identify with what it’s referred to as today

Draw a line connecting the identify of the Colonial Illness Identify with what it’s referred to as today

Okay)Consumption Tuberculosis

L)Screws Rheumatism

M)Quinsey Tonsillitis

N)Putrid Fever Diphtheria

O))Grippe Influenza

P)St. Vitus’ Dance Nervous Twitches disorder

Q)Ague Recurring fever of Malaria

R)Bilious fever Fever from a  liver

S)Bloody Flux Dysentery

T)Black Pox Smallpox


Some Favorite Old Proverbs

A proverb is a brief sentence based mostly on lengthy expertise with the clear  ring of fact to it. –

BF  is   Ben Franklin (1706-1790)

Wish not so much to reside long as to reside properly. BF

An excellent partner and health is an individual’s greatest wealth. BF

Hold conscience clear, then by no means worry.BF

A day is lost if one has not laughed. – French (on the conduct of life

He that lies down with the canine riseth with fleas. – George Herbert (1593-1633)

A great partner and health is a person’s greatest wealth. BF

Be sluggish in choosing a good friend, slower still in altering.BF

Content makes poor men wealthy; discontent makes wealthy males poor. BF

Dally not with different people’s spouses or cash. BF

Do good to thy good friend to maintain him, to thy enemy to realize him. BF

Don’t squander time for that is the stuff that life is product of BF

Don’t halloo till you’re out of the wood. BF

Annually one vicious behavior rooted out, in time may make the worst man good all through. BF

Early to mattress and early to rise, makes a person healthy, rich and clever. BF

Be civil to all; sociable to many; conversant in few; good friend to at least one; enemy to none. –BF

Maintain your eyes broad open before marriage, half shut afterwards. BF

Keep in mind not only to say the proper factor in the fitting place, however far harder still, to go away unsaid the flawed thing on the tempting second.-BF

Nicely carried out is best than nicely stated BF

A lie stands on one leg, the truth on two BF

Copyrighted by JSS four/2006