Jill gave a very interesting and fact-filled talk all about the origin of sayings. Here are a few of the highlights:
BY HOOK OR BY CROOK
This old saying probably comes from a Medieval law which stated that peasants could use branches of trees for fire wood if they could reach them with their shepherds crook or their billhook.
The expression to eat humble pie was once to eat umble pie. The umbles were the intestines or less appetizing parts of an animal and servants and other lower class people ate them. So if a deer was killed the rich ate venison and those of low status ate umble pie. In time it became corrupted to eat humble pie and came to mean to debase yourself or act with humility.
MAD AS A HATTER
This phrase comes from the fact that in the 18th and 19th centuries hat makers treated hats with mercury. Inhaling mercury vapor could cause mental illness.
WEAR YOUR HEART ON YOUR SLEEVE
In the Middle Ages knights who fought at tournaments wore a token of their lady on their sleeves. Today if you make your feelings obvious to everybody you wear your heart on your sleeve.
COCK AND BULL STORY
Originates from the village of Stony Stratford in Buckinghamshire. In the village were two inns, The Cock and The Bull, which were staging posts on the London to Birmingham stagecoach route. It is said that news and anecdotes were exchanged both by passengers and coachmen seeking to impress travellers with their knowledge of current affairs. Inevitably, stories became embellished in the telling and retelling and the two establishments vied to furnish the most outlandish tales. These became known as Cock and Bull stories.