In the past little while, I've been suffering from a bit of a 'frog in my throat' and when I mentioned this on air, my seven-year-old son saw it and asked me later, “Did you really Daddy?”. Ahhhh sweet! Although, as we're going to France later this year for a short break, I thought I’d better tell him that people don’t really put frogs in their mouths!
It did set me thinking, where do all these expressions come from? Well, I did a bit of research and it’s quite amazing. 'Frog in the throat' is an easy one that stems from the Middle Ages when drinking water wasn’t too good. There was a belief that if you drunk water from a pond, it could have frogspawn in it and a frog would hatch out in your tummy and try to escape via your mouth! Eat garlic at the same time and you could save the expense of the French restaurant!
But there are some other belters! Getting 'the wrong end of the stick' stems from Roman times and from when they sat side by side in the communal toilets. For personal hygiene, they used a short staff with a sponge on the end and people were very careful not to get the wrong end of it! The Romans, eh? Roads, concrete, viaducts and a primitive version of Andrex!
Another one I loved was 'warts and all’. We all know what it means, but did you know it stems from Oliver Cromwell’s time? In the mid 17th century, painters, a bit like celebrity photographers now, would soften the features and imperfections of their subjects to make them appear happier (400-hundred-year-old air brushing). But when Cromwell commissioned the artist Sir Peter Levy to paint his portrait, he's reputed to have said:
”I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like I am and not flatter me at all. Remark all these roughness, pimples, warts and everything as you see me. Otherwise I will never pay you a farthing for it”.
The result…’ol warty lips can be seen by all.
My last one might appeal to those of you who fancy the gee gees. The expression 'to win hands down' comes from the races. When a jockey is winning comfortably, he can canter over the line without using his whip so he can place both hands on the reins and win 'hands down'.
If you have any others I'd love to hear them, or if you're puzzled about any let me know and I can’t guarantee I’ll know but I’ll have a go!
P.S. If you're reading this at night… sleep tight! Ooh, I must look that one up!