Tuesday, December 28, 2010


This is the "between season" for me when Himself won't allow me to strip the house of Christmas decorations until after New Year's (and it's sometimes a struggle even then.) Thus, stymied in that activity, my mind tends to wander. Today it rolled over to where did certain common expressions arise from?

"Fit to be tied" (which I said the other day) apparently comes out of the 1600s when the mad people of Europe were often chained to dundgeon walls. Reform began during the 1700s, happily. Later usage indicated the person needed to be inserted into a strait jacket.

"The cat's out of the bag" In medieval England piglets were sold in the city markets, customarily in a burlap bag called a "poke." Unscrupulous pig dealers might instead substitute a large cat for the piglet so customers were wise to open the bag and look.

Another possible explanation: shipboard punishment back in those days required that a new cat-o-nine-tails (horrible lash!) be made for each person being punished. The new "cat" was kept in a bag during sentencing and then brought out and used on the prisoner.

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