Origin of Sayings

Old wives tales, words of wisdom, or plain foolish statements? I bet you have been baffled with the origin of sayings and what they actually mean. Let’s have a look at three old sayings and the history behind them:

  • Baker’s Dozen: a baker’s dozen is 13 pieces of something, for example 13 pieces of bread. For a long time, I wondered, “Why on earth is a bakers dozen 13 pieces instead of 12. Is it that Bakers cannot count? I hope not!”

    In the 13th century, a statue was formed called the ‘Assize of Bread and Ale’. If customers were suspicious that their Baker had cheated them, they could be severely punished. In order for the Baker not to be punished, the Baker would give 13 loaves for the price of 12. It was used as a measure that one of the 13 could be a ‘bad egg’, meaning that it could be one that was lost, burned, or ruined in some other way leaving 12 otherwise perfect loaves.

  • On Cloud Nine: There are 3 possible variations of where the origin of this saying comes from. According to the US Weather Bureau, it comes from the description of a cumulonimbus. A Level 9 cumulonimbus is able to reach between 30,000 – 40,000 feet and appear like a glorious mountain in the sky. In essence, you could imagine that heaven looks like a level 9 cumulonimbus.

    The second variation comes from Buddhism. According to the goal of the Bhodisattva, the state of being on cloud nine is the highest goal as he or she will become a cloud of dharma.

    The 3rd idea comes from Dante’s Paradise whereby the level of heaven closest to God is the 9th level.

  • Give Somebody the Cold Shoulder – if you gave an unwanted visitor a cold shoulder of mutton instead of hot meat, it was a hint that this visitor was not to visit again. It shows that he/she is not welcomed.

These are a few idioms that are really quite intriguing and funny! Do you have any other origin of sayings you would love to know the history about?

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