Idioms are everywhere — a dime a dozen — you might say. As individual words, they don’t make sense, but combine them together and you have a common phrase with its own personal meaning. So, I wasn’t surprised to see emphasis placed on idioms during an English language talking group I sometimes take part in. English is a tricky language.
I thought it would be interesting to find out where some of these idioms started. Although the origin of many are not known, others have more than one theory behind them.
Many idioms started back in the 1800s. A dime a dozen for example first started in the U.S. Things like eggs or apples were often advertised in markets for ten cents a dozen or, you got it, a dime a dozen! What’s important to note, however, is that buying a dozen eggs for a dime represented a lot of value for your money. Over time, the phrase evolved to mean plentiful, common and frankly, inexpensive. Once in a blue moon I like to use this phrase.
Once in a blue mood is another common idiom that means rare or not very often. This phrase relates to a rare full moon that appears twice in one calendar month, but only every two and a half years.
If you’re the superstitious type, you might use the phrase knock on wood once in a blue moon. The origin of the phrase knock on wood is somewhat unknown. Some believed it dated back to historic Celtic groups in Europe who believed that spirits lived in trees. They believed that knocking on the tree trunks was a way to wake up the spirits and call on them for protection.
My favourite find was under the weather — an idiom that means you’re not feeling very well. This dates back to decease-ridden sailing ships. One theory says that when there were more sick sailors than spaces to record their names on the ship’s log, the name was written in the next column reserved for the weather. And, voila, under the weather!
Do you have your own favourite idioms? Finding their origin can be interesting. Give it a go.
Source: theidioms.com/once-in-a-blue-moon; grammarist.com; history.com; globalgraduate.com