By Rosie Moore

Every language has its own collections of wise sayings. They offer advice about how to live and also transfer some underlying ideas, principles and values of a given culture. These sayings are called “idioms.”

I saw a friend a few days ago and she asked why I wasn’t at church for a few weeks. I replied, “I was ‘under the weather.’” When I got home I started thinking: what in the word does that phrase mean? Where did it come from? I searched and found the answer.

During the days when ships were powered by sail, the captain’s log documented everything that happened during the day. As sickness could spread rapidly on a ship, there were often times when the number of sailors that were ill exceeded the space provided in the log to record their names. During these times the excess names of the sick were recorded in the next column, which was reserved for the weather conditions of the day. Thus, is was not unusual for an ill sailor to be listed “under the weather.” Got that?

Here are some more idioms that we say every day and don’t stop to think how they got started.

“To lose your touch”: Literally this means to no longer have the ability to touch or feel with your fingers or hands. But to lose your touch actually means that you lose your ability or talent you once had when dealing with things, people, or situations. We use this when you’re usually good at a certain skill or talent, but then things start to go wrong.

“To sit tight.” This is a strange English idiom and it literally means that you sit down squeezing your body in a tight way, which if you did, it would be very uncomfortable, not to mention you’ll look really strange. But, if a person tells you to sit tight they want you to wait patiently and take no action until you hear otherwise.

To go “cold turkey.” this idiom sounds weird, I know. How can anyone literally to cold turkey? A person can’t transform into the bird we all love to eat for celebrations like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It means to suddenly quit or stop addictive or dangerous behavior such as smoking or drinking alcohol. This idiom originated in the late 20th century and suggests that a person who suddenly quits something addictive suffers side effects that look like a cold, uncooked turkey – pale, very white skin and goose bumps.

There are many, many more weird sayings, such as these one-liners, which are self-explanatory:

“A piece of cake”—A task that can be done easily

“A slap on the wrist”—A very mild punishment

“Not touching with a ten foot pole”

She was “tickled pink” by the good news.

Well, I better “hold my tongue” and put an end to these idioms!

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