What Do Those Sayings Mean?

Every generation has had their own sayings or phrases and every one of that generation understood what was being said or referred to. Also over time, those phrases are still used in later generations but no one knows where it originated from.

There is the phrase ‘Busman’s Holiday‘. It originated in the 1840s in England with the use of an omnibus which was a horse-drawn public form of a bus or wagon, who knew all the sights and places in a town. The phrase came to be known as a person who in his off-work time many times did the same type of activity, in this case touring a town or riding a bus. It would be a professional baseball umpire who also was an umpire for his son’s kids’ softball team.

If you say ‘Forty Winks‘ it originally referred to a good nap, starting in the 1820s. That still means getting a good long nap or full bed rest.

Then if something is ‘As Easy as Pie‘ came from the practice that eating a pie was easier than making a pie. There were other phrases along the same idea such as ‘a piece of cake’ and ‘nice as pie’ that date to the 1850s to 1900.

Again in the 1820s saying ‘Tongue in Cheek‘ was to show disrespect that you were holding back and holding your tongue in your cheek. You were indirectly stating your disapproval of the person you were holding your tongue again. By the 1860s that phrase came to mean something that was funny and not that important.

Use some ‘Elbow Grease‘ has remained a common expression especially towards children to encourage them to work harder. The phrase was first used in the 1670s, mostly by lower-class laborers. Over the years it is now to apply hard work to a project.

Raising Red Flags‘ was first used by sailing ships at sea especially fighting armies saying they will not take prisoners and the other ship was doomed. Now it is now used to refer to a person or deal which does not seem quite right.

So you may have recognized several of these phrases and now know the whole idea originated from.

Photos: 1850-Omnibus – horse-pulled; 1915 Group of soldiers napping; 1942-pie eating soldiers; 1942-hard working ladies; and ships fighting at sea one with a red flag.

Related FamilyTree.com Blogs:

Quaint Sayings

Antiquated American Phrases

Funny Sayings of Your Ancestors

< Return To Blog That was a serious red flag! Much more serious than a red flag in your genealogy research!
Sara N Martin 11/01/21

So true.
alice 11/01/21

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