Saturday, 24 March 2018

Where did that come from? Some animal sayings

Wild goose chase is easy to explain as to its meaning but has a more obscure origin.  A wild goose chase is when you set off on a search for something that doesn't exist.  Now as to origin, I thought it would have something to do with chasing geese…. Silly me.  This phrase which is thought to have been coined by Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet) is about chasing after something like a wild goose.  It is thought that it originally referred to a type of horse race where the lead horse set off over the countryside with each following rider following the exact same route.  This is a bit odd since geese don't fly in a single line but more in a V formation.

The bee's knees has a similar meaning to the Cat's Pajamas.  If something is the bee's knees, it is excellent.  The term originally meant something small and insignificant but in the 1920's it morphed into the current meaning. In case you were wondering bees do have joints in their legs which could be called knees although they don't have any kneecaps.

Smell a rat  - not used in a literal sense but used to indicate that a situation doesn't add up and you are suspicious that all is not as it should be.  I don't think it came from literally smelling rats because you would know it was a bad smell and not just suspect it.  But a rat is also used to refer to a bad person or a snitch.  So it may mean you have used your nose (ie common sense) and sniffed out a bad person who is presenting themselves as innocent.

One trick pony – if you are a one-trick pony you have only one party piece and no other skills.  This is said to have come from American circuses where ponies were taught tricks but some of them could only do one.

Get your ducks in a row means that you have prepared in advance what you need before beginning.  Why ducks?  One theory is that early bowling lanes used shorter fatter pins that were referred to as ducks.  It is not likely that it refers literally to a mother duck organising her brood – because they are ducklings not ducks.  Another possibility is a carnival shooting game where the targets are a row of moving ducks.

1 comment:

  1. To add to your animal list, a phrase that I have never heard before living where I do now, is "A horse a piece". Meaning, something like 6 of one, half a dozen of another.


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