There’s a phrase for thatPublished on October 11, 2010.
The other day, a friend used the phrase, “In like Flint.” I corrected him by saying the expression was actually, “In like Flynn.” Well, we decided, it depends on your age. He claimed the term came from the 1967 movie of the same name starring James Coburn. My recollection is that the term referred to Errol (do you know who I am talking about?) Flynn, who was a swordsman on screen and off.
We use phases readily without knowing (or caring) about their origins. I, however, find it fun to learn the genesis of commonly used groups of words. Some examples:
In the driver’s seat. This term, implying complete control, one might assume alludes to the control of an automobile. In fact, the phrase is more than 400 years old and refers to drivers driving horses or oxen.
There is a proverb, In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Word authority Robert Hendrickson says that after a search of history he could find no one-eyed king. However, there has been a one-eyed U.S. President. If you don’t know who that was, keep reading. Hint: it was the 26th President.
Know which side one’s bread is buttered on, of course, means what’s in your own best interest. That’s been around since John Heywood said it in Proverbs and Epigrams in 1562. I don’t know of a more modern adaptation.
Nose out of joint. I have always thought, wrongly as it turns out, that this meant that someone was distressed or upset. Not so, according to Word and Phrase Origins, which states that the term means to humiliate a conceited person.
Pull the wool over one’s eyes. This familiar expression’s origin has nothing to do with sheep. It is actually a 19th century English term that refers to the large wigs that were the fashion of the day. Wool was a joking term for hair, so when a clever lawyer tricked a judge, he said. “I pulled the wool over his eyes.”
That and a nickel will get you a cup of coffee, is something my Dad said from time to time, sometimes about my ideas. Today, the phrase should be, That and three dollars and fifty cents will get you a cup of coffee (if you frequent Starbucks).
Popular phrases aren’t always accurate. For example, walk down the aisle is a common expression for getting married. If a bride were actually to walk down the aisle she would be walking along either side of the church. Where she walks is actually called the nave, but who cares!
Our one-eyed president was Theodore Roosevelt. You can look it up.