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History Behind Common Sayings

Our language is evolving and new words (neologisms) are being added to the dictionary in greater numbers than ever before, and yet we continue to use sayings from long ago–their original meanings lost in the annals of history.

Here’s a few common sayings we still use today. 

Don’t kick a man when he’s down:
  • In 555 AD, a disgraced general named Belisarius was stripped of his rank, command,  and wealth on charges of crimes against Rome. If that wasn’t  bad enough ol’ Belisarius became blind and began begging. In those days, people gave beggars a swift kick when they passed—to which the once esteemed leader would reply, “Don’t kick a man when he’s down.” His frequent retort—all the more impressive when his identity was revealed—quickly spread throughout the empire. No doubt he earned more money this way, too.
damnDon’t give a damn:                                                             No, this phrase was not coined by Rhett Butler but has ancient origins. The damn is a Hindu coin that had a tendency to vary in value. When it plummeted, the Brits—who occupied India at the time—took to describing something of little worth this way.
It’s raining cats and dogs:
  • This comes from the Norse god Odin whose dog took the form of wind.  (My dog only passes wind). When Odin’s dog ( the wind) chased a cat (rain) ancient Celtic people said Odin was dropping cats and dogs from the sky.
  • Another possibility: During the Middle Ages roofs were made of straw. Dogs (used for hunting and protection) and cats ( to keep the mice population at bay) found warmth on the rooftops. A few good rainstorms—and bam! The straw was soaked through and cats and dogs were raining down.
Dog days of summer:
  • In Roman times, Sirius—the dog star—is brightest from the beginning of July until mid August AND rises with the sun!  The hot months, therefore, were attributed to the star’s brightness.
oracleLeave no stone unturned:                                                      If you were an ancient Greek and wanted an answer to an important question, you paid a visit to the Oracle at Delphi—a hotline to the gods.  One fine day, Euripides asked the Oracle where to find the treasure left by a certain general-on-the-run. The Oracle’s advice to the treasure-seeking Euripides was “to leave no stone unturned.”
Won’t hold water:
  • Those wacky Romans! They expected their Vestal virgins to remain virginal. One day, Tutia—one of the original Vestals—was accused of…well, you know. To prove her virginity, Pontifex Maximus insisted she carry a sieve ( a strainer with holes) of water from the Tiber river to the Temple. If the water escaped she would have to face a nasty punishment—being buried alive. Tutia passed the test. Whew!
african-lion-male_436_600x450The Lion’s share:                                                               This phrase comes from Aesop’s fables. Seems the lion and a bunch of his animal BFFs went hunting one fine day. When it came to share the booty, the lion, as king of the beasts, claimed the 1st, the 2nd, and 3rd parts for himself. Then the clever lion declared that anyone who wanted to dispute him for the 4th part  was  welcome to it. Nobody volunteered. Who wants to fight a lion?
 Piping hot
  • This descriptor has its roots in the bakery biz. In times of yore, the village baker blew a pipe announcing that fresh bread had just been pulled from the oven. The villagers, upon hearing the loud nose, came a runnin’ to buy the fresh loaves.
Make no bones about it
  • We’re used to having our chicken and fish de-boned, but years ago diners had to be very careful when they ate. If the hungry person de-boned their meal carefully they could dig into the pile of protein with gusto–with nary a worry about choking on a bone.
Down in the dumps
  • This history behind this saying is just too circumspect to be true. Seems an ancient Egyptian pharaoh named Dumpos died from depression. Anyone who suffered from the king’s ailments was said to have come down with Dumpos’ disease.
Hit a snag
  • A lumberjack’s term, this phrase meant the logs floating down the river were being held up by a  tree trunk (snag) stuck into the river.
panningSee how it pans out
  • From the gold-panning days of yesteryear, this expression was coined by those who hoped  gold flakes would be revealed after they shook the sand from the pan.

sailKnow the ropes
  • If a seaman didn’t the know the difference between the various ropes and rigging of a sailboat or how to handle them, he would be assigned to menial tasks. So if a sailor wanted to a better position he had to “know the ropes.”
  • Ragemane rolle is a scroll used in a medieval game of chance.
Called on the carpet:
  • When railroad was king, the big railroad bosses had elegant and luxurious  offices–you know, the kind with carpet! When a misbehaving employee did something bad, the Big Boss summoned them to their carpeted office for a scolding.
 What weird and wonderful sayings will our great great grandchildren use in a few hundred years?


Related Posts:History Of Common Sayings 2 Stupid Sayings; Vatican Vocab; Vatican Vocab 2


Smokin’ Good Times

In the Impatient Me post, I mentioned that one of my children had set fire to the house. A reader wanted wanted to know if my statement was really true. Well…almost. And not on purpose, mind you.

Here’s what happened:

Many years ago, I told the oldest two kiddos to go downstairs and start breakfast while I changed the baby’s diaper. I’m talking about pouring milk over cereal. A ten year old can accomplish this task without supervision–one might think…

Well, the diapering took longer than expected and I probably began a load of laundry, tripped over a few plastic toys, and stepped on a Barbie shoe ( ouch!) by the time I walked into the kitchen.

The two oldest were munching on bagels and cream cheese. Nothing amiss.  I set the baby in the highchair and started the coffee pot. Child #3 climbed up on the chair and tried stealing his older brother’s bagel. The normal breakfast shenanigans. I put the kettle on and began packing lunches.

No sooner was one sandwich made when I noticed smoke coming from the stove top. I turned off the kettle, removed it from the burner. Smoke poured from under the stove top.

My first guess, old food had stuck on the bottom of the kettle. Nope. Kettle underside was clean. Meanwhile, the smoke increased! And my kiddos were sitting not 3 feet away.

Just so you know,  the gas burners are located on an island in the middle of the kitchen. There’s 2 drawers on either side and under the range top is pot storage.

I still was not overly concerned. Guess, I wasn’t fully awake… hadn’t had my coffee yet.

I checked the space underneath. No smoke. Where was it coming from? The smoke began pouring from the burners.

And that’s when I panicked.  The realization dawning! “It’s gonna blow!” I screamed, grabbing all the kiddos and pulling them out of the kitchen. I’m thinking, there must be a  gas leak in the stove top!  Once it ignites the whole island is going to EXPLODE!

Who knows how much time we had before the inferno erupts!

I bolted to the stairs, baby in one hand, toddler under my arm, and screamed to my husband. “FIRE!”

Of course, he came barreling down the steps and, sure enough, saw the smoke filling up the kitchen. After a 911 call we ran outside and waited for the red truck.

A few minutes later, a whole bunch of buff fireman raced into the house. The kiddos, meanwhile, were enjoying the early morning excitement.

Five tense minutes passed.

“It’s OK.” A handsome fireman waved us back inside. He held up a blackened potholder. “You really shouldn’t stuff a smoldering potholder into a drawer.”

A what? I didn’t use a potholder…wait a minute…

“Who used a potholder this morning?”  I asked both school age kiddos.

They both took a step back.

“Sammy made the bagels.” Big brother pointed to his sis.

My daughter suddenly looked very concerned, but said nothing.

“Did you use a potholder?” I asked trying to sound as sweet as possible.

Her head shook back and forth.

“I won’t be mad, I promise. Did you use a potholder? I promise I won’t yell.”

A blonde head bobbed once.


“The toast was hot, so I used the potholder, and then…”   And then the tears flow.

Frightened I would be angry because she burned a potholder, she stuffed it back into the drawer, where it began to smolder; eventually causing all that smoke.

Who knew a scorched potholder could be a fire hazard?

We laugh at the memory now.

Children…never a dull moment.

Related Posts: Experienced Mom lesson #1; Wanted:Food Fairy; Impatient Me


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Hubby “Helps” in the Kitchen

Yesterday! The Kitchen! Hubby “helps” me.

While I send a query letter, post on Facebook, twitter—you know, the social media stuff—Hubby loads the dishwasher and turns it on.

Wonderful, yes?  The kitchen is cleaned—not too tricky since we had a Costco meal—the counters are germ-free—and least that’s the claim on the spray bottle.

Tappity-tap-tap-tap. My fingers on the keyboard.

Rumble. Grumble. Splish-splash. Dishwasher noises.

Ten minutes later…

Lovely white suds are billowing out from under the dishwasher. 

“Oh-oh,” Hubby says. “I can’t believe I did that.”

The moment those words leave his mouth—I KNOW! “What did you put inside the dishwasher?” I’m afraid to look. (Actually, I lie. I’m afraid  I’ll have to clean it up.) How does one clean soap bubbles, anyway?

“Not my fault. Somebody put the dishwashing liquid under the sink. It’s never under the sink. Who put the bottle under the sink?”

Um…the same person who sneaks into the laundry room to remove ONE sock from the dryer…the same person who leaves the door unlocked, the window open…the same person who hides the remote and the dog’s leash. The elusive Nobody. ( I have teenagers, so they’re always good to blame)

I digress.

Hubby opens the dishwasher and it’s FILLED with iridescent bubbles—they might even be described as pretty if it weren’t for the mess involved.

As I write this, the dishwasher is going through yet another rinse cycle. And soap suds are still on the floor.

The dishwasher liquid vs dishwashing liquid incident reminds me of when:

Not for automatic dishwashers.

  • I grabbed the Windex instead of hairspray (the smell clued me in)
  • I dropped a gallon of liquid detergent in the laundry room ( took weeks to scrape up the soapy residue)
  • I washed a load of clothes with a tube of  lipstick ( everything was ruined)
  • I made coffee (left the kitchen) but forgot to put the carafe under the spout
  • I spend 10 minutes searching for my reading glasses when they’re on top of my head

My list could go to infinity and beyond!!!

What silly things have you done? Lately.




Free Read

Amazon Prime members can now read The Merkabah Recruit for free! 

Not a Prime member? No problem! The novel can be downloaded for FREE December 25th through December 27th.

Reminders will be posted on my Facebook  and Fanpage L.Z.Marie  and Twitter @LZMarieAuthor

Free–especially after those wallet busting Holidays–is great!

FYI: Amazon Prime is an amazing program if you’re a voracious reader. It gives you access to zillions ( OK, maybe not that many) of free downloads.


iPhone how-to

Need to get your fix of my daily blog but life keeps you away from your computer?

No worries. You can add my website to your iPhone or iPad home screen. (Well, not just my blog, but any website.) Many pardons for those tech savvy people who are thinking “well, duh” but I know a lot of people ( yes, they are younger than 30 yrs old) who don’t know how to do this. 

Here’s how:

  • Click the Safari icon.
  • Type in LZMarieAuthor on the search section. Click on my website.
  • At bottom of phone look for icon with the arrow in a box (on an iPad the arrow in a box is at the top of the screen).  Click on it.
  • A prompt with 9 selections will appear; select ADD to Home Screen
  • the Add to Home page will display, click Add at top of screen.
There you have it! A small icon will appear on your home screen–my blog at your fingertips.

Rules for a Good Life

There are lots of different Rules for a Good Life. Here’s one of my favorites. My tongue in cheek comments are in red.

Note: Type A personality is defined as one who is an impatient, ambitious, workaholic multi-tasker.

1. Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.  Too bad we don’t understand this until we’re older and/or have experienced a harrowing divorce.

2. Work at something you enjoy and that’s worthy of your time and talent. Ah, if we could be sooo lucky and make money at the same time!

3. Give people more than they expect and do it cheerfully. This sounds like a Type A personality—maybe not the cheerful part.

4. Be forgiving of yourself and others. Others, OK. Myself? Not so much.

5. Become the most positive and enthusiastic person you know. Maybe if I had some meds….or an extra tall double shot espresso and a brownie.

6. Be generousMy children’s reminder at Christmas.

7. Persistence, persistence, persistence. If you’re a parent, you don’t have a choice!

8. Have a grateful heart. I try, but its tough when tasks at home and office keep piling up.

9. Discipline yourself to save money on even a modest salary. This is my least favorite “rule.” I didn’t even want to include it. Think of it more as a “guideline.” In addition,   it conflicts with #6 (be generous). Good thing this rule will help me practice  #4 (forgiving myself).

10. Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated. I could write pages on this one—but I usually keep my blogs short.

11. Commit yourself to constant improvement. Type A personality strikes again! Hubby uses a more unflattering term “perfectionist.” The word “commit” carries some serious baggage, as well. But oh! if I could only instill this in my students!( especially with regard to their essays)

12. Commit yourself to quality. This conflicts with   # 9 (saving money), be it chocolate or automobiles.

13. Understand that happiness is not based on possessions, power, or prestige, but on relationships with people you love and respect.  If this were remotely possible there would be no great literature  and the world would be perfect

14. Be loyal. To what? This also may conflict with #1. And what would happen to all the reality TV shows if everyone obeyed this rule?

15. Be honest. With yourself—yes , but see rule #10 for the all too frequent, “Honey, do I look fat in this?” question.  Lie to me!

16. Be a self-starter. This is a biggie; in fact, this rule is so important it should be re-assigned to the # 2 or #3 spot. Think about it: If you’re not a self-starter all the rules are for naught!

17. Be decisive even if it means you’ll sometimes be wrong. Once again, this rule may be at odds with # 9 (saving $) “Yes, charge it!”   And I’m never wrong.

18. Stop blaming others. Take responsibility for every area of your life. Ah, but where’s the fun in that? With whom would I argue? Unless I’m arguing with myself—see rule #17.

19.  Be bold and courageous. When you look back on your life, you’ll regret the things you didn’t do more than the ones you did. WARNING: Do not show this rule to teenagers!

20. Take good care of those you love. Yet again, this may require breaking rule # 9. Unless they’re referring to hugs, kisses, sympathy, compassion, yada yada

21. Don’t do anything that wouldn’t make Mom or Dad proud. Depending on generation, ethnicity, or culture, I fully understand  this may be more of a challenge for some of us than others.

What rules do you have the most difficulty with? OR better still, please share your Rules for Life!  I would love to compile a new list!