No matter where you are – at work, in a restaurant, in a store or even at home – you’ll here old sayings and adages used with relative frequency.

The fact that they’re a common part of life is without question, but where they originate is seldom known. Here’s a look at some of them and where they might have come from.

  • Lowball

When negotiating a price on a home, car or other item, a buyer might offer an amount considered to be this by the seller in an attempt to get a really good deal.

The saying probably stems from a version of draw poker in which the player having the lowest-ranking hand wins the pot. Basically, the winner of a hand “lowballed” everyone.

  • The worm has turned

    Doug Davison

       Doug Davison

Pretty well known to mean a reversal of fortune (whether from good to bad or bad to good), the expression was first used to convey the notion that even the meekest of creatures will retaliate or get revenge if pushed too far.

The phrase was first appeared in a renowned writer’s work in the mid-1500s, and was famously used by William Shakespeare in one of his plays.

  • Tickled pink

This phrase not surprisingly refers to the fact that when some people are highly excited, their skin literally changes color – just like when they blush. It more or less amounts to becoming so pleased that the blood vessels dilate, more blood flows close to the skin and the person appears redder than usual.

  • Off the schneid

When you hear this phrase, you probably understand the user is referring to the ending of a losing or bad luck streak or the replacement of a series of negatives occurrences with something positive.

“Schneid” is actually short for “schneider,” a term originally used in the card game, gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring points. “Schneider” came from German, where it means, “tailor.” The original gin-related meaning was that if you were “schneidered,” you were “cut” (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game.

Schneider first appeared card-playing jargon in the late 1800s.

  • Wazzoo

When someone thinks they have too much of something, they might say they have it “out the wazzoo.”

If someone doesn’t like something, they might say it’s a “pain in the wazzoo.”

There’s “up the” versions and other versions, too.

Somewhat expectedly, the term began a long time ago as slang for the part of the body you sit on (according to the Oxford English Dictionary).

  • Posh

Easily recognizable as meaning elegant, fancy or upscale, the term goes back to the day when wealthy passengers on ships traveling between England and India would have “POSH” written by their bookings, standing for “port out, starboard home.” That way they were housed in the more desirable cabins on the shady side of the ship, both on the way east and on the return trip west.

  • Snazzy

Speaking of posh, if something is that it might also be this.

The first documented use of the word was in 1901 in a New Zealand magazine in an article about George H. Snazelle, a famous English singer, entertainer and actor. He, of course, was referred to as “Snazzy,” and the rest (as they say, whoever “they” are) is history.

  • Hunky dory

Certainly we all know this phrase means OK, nice, satisfactory and the like.

While its existence isn’t even close to clandestine or complicated, its origins are. But it could well be that it’s a combination of slang from multiple cultures.

The “hunky” part might be from a mid-1800s term, “hunkey” (meaning satisfactory), which probably came from a New York City street game slang word, “hunk” (meaning “in a safe position”).

The “dory” part might have begun with “Honcho Dori,” a street in Yokohama, Japan, where sailors would go to enjoy themselves.

  • Cop

This term that obviously refers to a law enforcement officer is actually an acronym for “constable on patrol.”

  • Bobby

A constable on patrol in England might be referred to in this manner.

That began with Robert (Bobby) Peel, a British politician who was prime minister in in the 1830s and 1840s.

  • Son of a gun

We’ve all heard someone blurt out this phrase when they’re surprised, or maybe annoyed.

It might have begun centuries ago when the British Navy allowed women on ships, even though there were supposedly rules against the practice. If a boy was born on board to uncertain paternity, he was listed in the ship’s log simply as “son of a gun” (i.e., military man).

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

At one time or another, most Americans have heard of archaic laws that are on the books in given states (sometimes after dozens of decades) despite not making any sense.

Here is a list of such laws that are actually official (although perhaps not strictly enforced) along with their unofficial counterparts (added by your local fish wrap correspondent). As usual, there’s no particular order involved.

  • Nebraska

Official: Fishing for whales is illegal.

Unofficial: Harpooning politicians is illegal.

  • Kansas

Official: Shooting a rabbit from a motorboat is illegal.

Unofficial: Shooting a motorboat while hunting rabbits is illegal.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

  • Georgia

Official: Keeping and ice cream cone in your back pocket on a Sunday is illegal.

Unofficial: With a permit, keeping an ice cream cone in your back pocket is legal Monday through Saturday.

  • Hawaii

Official: Serving customers a milkshake with non-dairy milk without warning them is illegal.

Unofficial: Warning customers you’re going to serve them a milkshake with non-dairy milk in it, then telling them they’re actually going to get a milkshake with real milk in it, and then serving them a root beer float is illegal – unless it’s made with non-dairy ice cream.

  • Oklahoma

Official: Wrestling with bears is not allowed.

Unofficial: Trying to stop a wrestling match between a person and a bear is also illegal. •Connecticut

Official: A pickle isn’t a pickle unless it bounces.

Unofficial: A basketball isn’t a basketball unless it’s pickled.

  • West Virginia

Official: Taking road kill home for dinner is illegal.

Unofficial: Taking road kill to your neighbor’s house for dinner is OK.

  • Nevada

Official: A man cannot buy drinks for more than three people at one time.

Unofficial: A woman cannot accept drinks from more than five men at a time.

  • South Dakota­­

Official: Sleeping in cheese factories is not allowed.

Unofficial: Sleeping with gouda in your ears or havarti between you toes is illegal.

  • Iowa

Official: One-armed piano players cannot charge for performances.

Unofficial: Pea-brained lawmakers can give themselves raises.

  • Montana

Official: Leaving a sheep in the cab of a pickup without a chaperone is against the law.

Unofficial: Taking a sheep to a dance without a chaperone is illegal.

  • Delaware

Official: Selling dog hair is illegal.

Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from New York.

  • New York

Official: Selling cat hair is illegal.

Unofficial: Unless the buyer is from Delaware.

  • North Dakota

Official: Selling beer and pretzels at the same time is not allowed.

Unofficial: It’s illegal not to eat pretzels while drinking beer.

  • New Mexico

Official: Idiots and insane people are not permitted to vote.

Unofficial: Idiots and insane people can legally run for office.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

What can you say about this presidential election year, other than it’s the craziest one ever?

I’d say it’s more of a “show” than any previous version, with characters who might belong more in a big top than the oval office.

So in keeping with the tone of the whole fiasco, I thought I’d have a little fun by comparing some of the presidential candidates (active and withdrawn) to “who they look like,” similar to the way it’s done with coaches and players on the popular ESPN Radio program, “The Dan Le Batard Show.” Candidates aren’t arranged in any order, not all are mentioned (and that’s not because of some sort of conspiracy) and there’s no intention of riling anyone up (although that could well happen anyway).

  • Bernie Sanders looks like high school math teacher who plays “Doc” in a drama department production of Back to the Future II.”

    Doug Davison

         Doug Davison

Or a scientist on a public TV show about space who shakes his finger at the camera and exclaims, “it’s poppycock that some of my colleagues took away Pluto’s status as a planet – and I’m going to show you why!”

  • Marco Rubio looks like a guy working in an department store electronics department wearing a blue shirt with a name tag on it who walks up to you holding an odd looking contraption and asks, “have you seen what this can do?” before introducing himself or saying anything else.

Or a man behind the window of a carnival pretzel trailer wearing a striped shirt and hat who asks if you want an extra pack of mustard.

  • Chris Christie looks like a guy who sells meat out of a cooler in the back of a small pickup who continues with his pitch on your driveway after you tell him you’re not interested because you don’t have a stand-alone freezer in the garage and there isn’t room in the freezer section of the fridge in your kitchen.

Or the guy who works at an outdoor products store who claps his hands and says, “so, I can definitely see you taking this home today!” as you sit in a five-figure UTV parked near the back of a dark showroom.

  • Carly Fiorina looks like a woman who does a bad “tribute to Celine Dion” show at a regional or state fair.

Or a flight attendant who says, “we only have Coke products” (drawing out the “only” and putting heavy emphasis on the “s” in products) when you ask for a Pepsi.

  • Ted Cruz looks like the guy who plays the hermit-like, slow-talking villain in a B-movie about teenagers exploring an abandoned mine town.

Or the guy who greets you at the entrance to a clown museum and says, “anyone who doesn’t like clowns doesn’t like America.”

  • Ben Carson looks like the guy inside an airport garage payment booth who says, “fye dollaz,” in a low monotone voice without making eye contact with you.

Or a guy driving a tram in the parking lot of a major theme park who keeps saying, “we’re glad you’re here, where every day is a beautiful day.”

  • Hillary Clinton looks like the woman behind the checkout counter at a liquor superstore who asks if you found “everything you needed.”

Or the woman sitting next to you on the subway who wants to know all about every dog you’ve owned in your life.

  • John Kasich looks like a college basketball coach who loosens his tie half way through the first quarter and yells “so it’s going to be like this again?” at the nearest referee.

Or a financial adviser who smiles and assures you “the same thing won’t happen this time.”

  • Donald Trump looks like a guy who would reminisce about his trip to Namibia while selling crystal jewelry on a TV shopping network.

Or a traveling representative of a hair products company who keeps saying, “just look what it’s done for me.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Gone with Gertie

 

A warm day in winter

 

Like many dogs, Gertie can never get enough of getting outside and walking aimlessly on a forested trail or around a lake.

“Aimlessly?” she said. “I think I have pretty good aim. I haven’t gotten lost yet.”

“It’s a figure of speech,” I said. “It means – oh, never mind.”

Anyway, on one of those warm days that have been so common this winter, the Permapup and I decided to get some exercise and take in the sights by strolling around Austin Community Lake in the far southwest corner of Texas County. For all you armchair outdoorsmen who aren’t aware of it, the lake covers 22 acres on a parcel of Missouri Department of Conservation land about five miles from Cabool.

It features a boat ramp, picnic areas, a pavilion and even a fishing dock. As soon as I opened the door of the 2004 Ford F-150, Gertie bolted toward the shore.

“This place is pretty cool,” she said. “Let’s go!”

As if she had been there before, the P-Pup took off toward the nicely groomed grassy area along and atop the sizable dam on the west end of the lake. Her nose went into hyper-data-collection mode as she went from place to place sniffing and learning.

“Frog, snake, deer, boot, fishing lure, beer can – wow, this is like snout paradise!” Gertie said.

“I know, girl,” I said. “And hey, I’m proud of you for avoiding the water and the mucky areas.”

Normally when she gets anywhere near a lake, pond or river, Gertie ends up soaking wet and smelling like something between a used dish cloth and a rotten fish.

“I thought I might stay presentable for a change,” she said. “But I can’t make any promises; if a slightly submerged T-shirt or a muddy hair band calls my name, I may have to change my mind.”

“I’d much prefer it if you didn’t get wet this time,” I said.

“Not even my toes?”

“Nope.”

“Not even that little white area at the end of my tail?”

Gertie (the Permapup) observes her surroundings on a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie (the Permapup) observes her surroundings on a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County.

“No, not even the white spot at the tip of that feather duster protruding from your caboose,” I said.

“We’ll see,” Gertie said. “I don’t always have control over these things, you know.”

As we continued around the north side of the lake, we came to a sturdy bench on a point of land.

The view was great, with a large stand of shortleaf pines on the opposite shore and sun-bathed water on three sides of us.

“How about this?” I said.

“Yeah, nice,” Gertie said. “You know the MDC was formed in 1937 and has a big budget to work with thanks to a 1/8-percent state sales tax passed by voters in 1976. The tax has no ending date, so as prices increase, MDC’s revenue does, too.”

“Dang, Gertie, it’s apparent you’ve been boning up on your MDC knowledge,” I said.

“Yep, and the MDC administers more than 975,000 acres all over the state,” Gertie said. “About 63-percent of that is forested.”

“Interesting information,” I said. “Especially from a Corgi.”

“I’m just saying,” Gertie said, as she half-buried her snout in a tuft of grass near a stump.

“You know,” I said, “there’s no such thing as a government branch or agency that doesn’t have room for improvement, and sure, there are seriously bad examples of deception, corruption and selfishness and everywhere you look in government operations. But I happen to think the MDC does a good job overall.”

“Me, too,” Gertie said. “So why are there people who seem to hate them so much?”

“I’m not really all that sure,” I said. “But I’ve heard some guys who work for them say people are like that because it’s an easy target.”

“Maybe,” Gertie said. “Or maybe they learned to swim in the shallow end of the gene pool.”

“Gertie! Be nice!” I said.

“Or maybe they were born on a highway, since that’s where most accidents happen.”

“Gertie!”

“Or perhaps when they had a chance to drink from the fountain of knowledge, they only gargled.”

“OK, Ms. Insultasaurus, that’s quite enough,” I said. “Let’s move on.”

As we finished circling Austin Lake on the well-groomed swath that surrounds it, Gertie chased a squirrel into the woods, found a downed log to play queen-of-the-world on top of and generally made sure she added to the ongoing reality that every day is a big adventure in Gertie World. As we returned to the parking area, she found no way to get around a picnic table, but managed to go over the top of it and continue advancing.

“Must…reach…truck,” she said, tongue flapping in the breeze.

“Boy, it’s a good thing I brought the emergency supplies,” I said. “I’d say you’ve been in the wilderness a little too long.”

When we arrived back home, Gertie downed a gallon or two of water and plopped down on the floor with a rawhide chew stick – one of her favorite things, along with other variations of dog chews.

“That’s because you won’t give me rib eye steak or ham hocks,” she said.

“I’ve told you a thousand times, that would cause too much of a mess in the house,” I said. “Do you remember me saying that?”

(crickets chirping)

“Gertie, do you recall my saying that?”

(crickets)

“Gertie!”

“As I’ve told you a thousand times,” Gertie said. “I’m trying to figure out what the problem is.”

“Oh, brother,” I sighed. “There’s no problem, girl. No problem at all.”

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Gertie is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Email Jamie at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Gertie egets close to the water at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie egets close to the water at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County.
Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie enjoys a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County. Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

Gertie enjoys a warm winter afternoon at Austin Community Lake in southwest Texas County.
Photo by Doug Davison, Houston Herald

 

Almost every day, I hear people use old sayings and slang words in routine conversation, rather than simply saying what they mean.

But I’m glad we use language that way, because life wouldn’t be nearly as interesting if we all simply said what we meant every time we open our mouths. For no particular reason, here’s a look at the possible origins of a handful more of the thousands upon thousands of old sayings, idioms and slang that constantly show up in the English language.

•Doozy (or doozie).

I’m pretty sure there’s nobody I know who doesn’t understand that if something is a “doozy,” it’s a heck of an example of whatever it is.

While there doesn’t appear to be a definitive origin for the word, there are at least three main theories.

The oldest possibility is it’s an adaptation of “daisy,” which was used in 18th century England as a synonym for something or someone of high caliber.

For example, if someone was trying to sell a mare and was trying to convince someone else of what a fine animal it was, they might have said, “that horse is a real daisy! She’s well worth the price!”

Another possibility is that it came from the nickname for the Duesenberg, a luxury automobile introduced in the U.S. in the 1920s by Duesenberg Motors Co., a firm that was sometimes referred to as “Duesy” (just like many people in these parts don’t own Chevrolet pickups, but Chevys).

A third possibility is that it comes from the nickname given to Italian actress Eleanor Duse, who made headlines in the 1890s in the world of New York theater.

All three are cool possibilities. I like the automotive choice.

•Toodle-oo.

A cute way to say, “see you later,” or “goodbye,” right?

Yep, and it’s origin is British.

The “toodle” (or tootle) part is a variation of the word “toddle,” and both basically mean to “walk in a leisurely manner.” So I guess if you say, “toodle-oo,” you’re going to walk AWAY in a leisurely manner.

Incidentally, if you’re in need of walking away leisurely, but quickly, you can just say, “toodles.” At least, I’ve heard that many times and I figure it’s a time saver – albeit small.

Incidentally, you really don’t have to walk anywhere to use either variation – time has allowed them to simply become ways to say “goodbye.” I’ve heard my own wife say “toodles” when hanging up the telephone.

•Nose to the grindstone.

Certainly, we all know that anyone whose nose is in this situation is hard at work, focused and determined.

But maybe the phrase was originally more about working smart than hard. That’s because it’s an old-time European expression designed to remind a miller that he must maintain a flow of grain between the mill stones, which were traditionally set one above the other. Without any grain between them, the stones would touch and create sparks that could cause an explosion that would kill the miller.

Basically, keeping your nose to the grindstone meant to pay close attention – and maybe live another day. So it didn’t have anything to do with sharpening tools on stones or that kind of thing – who knew?

•High-falootin.

My wife and I watched an odd movie the other night about members of a high-falootin Mexican family.

Accurately stated, they were “highfalutin” people. The word isn’t even slang. The Merriam-Webster definition is “seeming or trying to seem great or important; expressed in or marked by use of high-flown bombastic language.”

Wow, so now we have an old saying that’s not even an old saying, and it basically means exactly what we’re used to having it mean. And come to think of it, I know of a lot of high falootin folks, especially in major politics.

•Smack-dab.

It’s no secret that if something is smack-dab in the middle of something else, it’s centered about as well or as much as possible.

But what in the Sam Hill do “smack” and “dab” have to do with that?

I’m not really sure, to be honest. But I can tell you that “dab” is a British word meaning clever or skilled, and the phrase “dab hand at it” might be used to refer to someone a with a high degree of knowledge or skill in a particular field.

Less obscure is the fact that “smack” is a verb meaning to strike sharply and with a loud noise. So I guess if something is smack-dab in the middle, it was skillfully and authoritatively placed there. That’ll work.

Yikes.

I often find myself saying this.

And when I do, I’m sure the listener doesn’t have to think twice to understand it means I’m expressing empathy with undesirable or unfortunate circumstances.

Well, its origin is a little less clear than its meaning, but it might have started in the 1700s, when foxhunters would call out “hoicks” or “yoicks” to encourage their dogs, Apparently, the practice became common in the 1800s as a means of expressing excitement.

If that’s the case, fear was added later. But as we’ve concluded before, many old sayings and expressions are recognized nowadays as meaning the opposite of their origins.

•Kill two birds with one stone.

It’s well known that if you chuck one rock and kill two birds, you’re operating with efficiency and getting stuff done.

But there doesn’t appear to be any neat and tidy origin to this phrase, other than it showed up in writing in the 1600s and has been around ever since.

The other day, I heard a man in our office say, “I thought I’d kill that bird, too.” The “too” in that statement surely references killing more than one “bird,” which of course doesn’t refer to an actual winged creature, but a task.

Interesting how the man didn’t just say, “While I’m at it, I’ll probably take care of that other chore, too.”

But like I said, life wouldn’t be as interesting if we always just said what we meant, now would it? That’s what the spice of life is all about (hey, there’s one for next time).

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are also posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

I never tire of examining the origins of the zillions of old sayings, idioms and slang words we who speak English so often use in every day conversation.

Here’s a look at some more.

  • In the buff.

Most people are this way when they get out of the shower, right?

The origin of the phrase comes from something very different than nudity.

A buff-coat was a light leather tunic worn by English soldiers hundreds of years ago (through the 1500s). The original meaning of the saying was simply to be wearing such a coat, which Shakespeare even references in a 1590 play.

The current meaning is a reference to the color of Caucasians’ skin, which is somewhat like the light brownish-yellow of buff. This 180-degree transformation of the phrase was first recorded by a well-known writer (Thomas Dekker) in 1602.

I love it when old sayings come from even older sayings that pretty much meant something opposite.

  • Rhyme or reason.

We all know that when something is done without this, it’s absent of justification or sensibility.

Doug Davison

   Doug Davison

The saying has apparently meant pretty much the same thing since its inception, and started in French in the late 1400s before being picked up by English about a century later. I was hoping to nail down the “rhyme” part, but I guess there’s no rhyme or reason it’s in there.

  • Peachy.

Not only is the peach the state fruit of Georgia (even though substantially more of them grow in South Carolina), the word commonly stands for something going well, feeling good or that kind of thing.

Oddly enough, the meaning of the idiom stems from the practice of eating peaches. Apparently, there are versions that produce a natural high by interfering with lipotin receptors in the brain. This strain of peaches were often sold as a drug until being outlawed in the 1940s.

When “high” from eating them, people would often say that they were feeling “peachy.”

Since cocaine used to be an ingredient in Coca-Cola, maybe some folks back in the day considered a Coke and a peach a their “power lunch.”

  • Swimmingly.

Ranking high on my list of strange old sayings, it’s well known that if something is going this way it’s going well, with ease or successfully.

The common use of the adverb can be traced back to the early 1800s, when movement through water was considered generally smooth, especially compared to the “clomping” of walking on land.

A written piece from 1824 said, “The interview went off very swimmingly.” Not just swimmingly, but VERY swimmingly.

Now that’s smooth.

  • Fiddlesticks.

My mom would sometimes say this when something went a little haywire.

The term literally stems from “fiddle sticks,” the bows used to play violins, which were called “fydylstyks” in the 1300s. The word became associated with absurdity or nonsense when it was used that way by an English play writer in the 17th century.

  • Cooties.

I recall this word being used when I was young (all those years ago) to describe something – or more often somebody – who “had” something that was yucky (like a disease).

The word probably originated from Southeast Asian languages in which the word “kutu” refers to a parasitic biting insect. The term was also by British soldiers during World War I to refer to lice that proliferated in battlefield trenches.

It’s actually a bug – who knew? I guess that’s why there were big bugs in that game I had when I was a kid.

  • Scuttlebutt.

These days, someone might go to the local café to hear the latest “scuttlebutt” about what’s going on around town, because we know it’s a form of interesting news or gossip.

The term comes from a combination of a pair of nautical words: “scuttle” (to make a hole in a ship’s hull that causes it to sink) and “butt” (a cask used to hold drinking water in the days of big wooden ships).

The butt was also “scuttled” with a hole so water could be accessed, so sailors exchanged gossip when they gathered at the scuttlebutt. Interesting how now the gossip IS the scuttlebutt.

  • Gone to pot.

Certainly, something that has gone this route is no longer as good as it used to be or generally just no good.

As with many modern idioms, there are more than one possible origins of this common phrase. Maybe the best one is that in the early days industrial mass-production, assembly-line workers would sometimes find a defective metal part not suitable for use. The sub-par part would subsequently be sent back to the smelting room to be melted down in the large smelting pot and re-cast a second time.

  • Shenanigans.

While we all know it means trickery or mischief, we’ll have to settle for wondering where the word came from, because time has apparently covered up any definitive answer.

Possibilities include the Spanish word “chanada” (a shortened form of charranada, meaning trick or deceit) the German word “schenigelei” (a peddler’s slang for work or craft) or the related German slang “schinäglen,” or perhaps the Irish word “sionnach,” meaning fox.

You know, it doesn’t really matter where any of these came from anyway. As Shakespeare said, “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Wow, Shakespeare twice in one column. Now that’s some refined classiness right there.

Or just good old shenanigans.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.

Examining the origins of old sayings and expressions (or even their possible origins) never gets old.

And there’s no shortage of material to examine because old sayings are such an integral part of the English language.

Here’s a look at another set.

  • Knock on wood.

A widely used phrase and action known as a means of fending off bad luck or “tempting fate” when a person makes an observation or declaration regarding something beyond their control. Its origin stems from a belief hundreds of years ago in several cultures that wood and trees were associated with good spirits, and it was considered good luck to tap trees to alert the “wood spirits” of your presence.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison

  • Hobnob.

If you’re “hobnobbing,” you’re talking informally, drinking or otherwise socializing with someone else.

The word can be traced back to 16th century England and the terms “habban” (to have) and “nabban” (not to have) when used by people taking turns drinking to each other’s health.

  • Bury the hatchet.

Recognized as meaning to settle differences or make peace with an enemy or adversary, this phrase was born of a practice that would take place at the ending of hostilities among or by Native Americans in the Eastern United States, when chiefs of tribes would literally bury a tomahawk.

The phrase is found in English writings from the 1600s, but the practice likely even pre-dates the European settlement of America.

  • All get out.

If you hear someone use this old saying, they’re probably emphasizing the extreme nature of what they’re talking about, or maybe pointing out something happening to its utmost.

Its origins are sketchy at best, but Mark Twain used it in his 1884 book, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin” when Huck said, “we got to dig in like all git-out.”

My wife says it pretty often.

  • Pandora’s box.

We all know we had better not open it, because we don’t want to face the dire consequences or endure the resulting chaos if we do.

That stands to reason, because it’s an object from Greek mythology (that was actually a large jar) that was given to Pandora – the world’s first woman – and contained all the evils of the world. She got the “box” as a gift at her marriage and was told to never open it. Her curiosity won out (of course) and she unleashed demons upon the Earth.

  • Good grief.

An expression accepted as representing surprise, alarm, dismay or some other negative emotion that entered mainstream society via Charles Schultz’ famous Peanuts character, Charlie Brown.

It probably originated as a variance of the term, “good God,” as a way to avoid taking the name of the Lord in vain.

  • Hodgepodge.

Easily recognized as a reference to things found in the same place that are not really meant to be together, the expression dates back to the 1400s and the similar French word, “hochepot,” that was derived from the verb, “hocher,” meaning “to shake.” Basically, the word referred to a large, deep pot or pan and a stew made up of many different ingredients (often not well suited to be together) all shaken together in it.

  • Let the chips fall where they may.

This old saying comes from the world of logging, probably beginning in the late 1800s.

Every time a lumberjack using an axe hits a tree, pieces of wood – chips – scatter. The concept is simple: Don’t worry about the various chips flying around and never mind where they land. Instead, remain focused on the task at hand, which would of course have been chopping down a tree.

Nowadays, the same concept far more widely applied.

  • No strings attached.

When something comes without strings attached, we know there’s nothing required of us after receiving it and no need for any form of reciprocation, and no consequences will follow.

The saying originally had a much different, simpler meaning. It can be traced to the 1700s when expensive cloths like silk were imported to Europe and a merchant would mark a flaw in the weave by tying a small string at the bottom.

Even today, a tailor might want some yards of flawless cloth and ask for some with “no strings attached.”

  • Ducks in a row.

We’ve all said (or at least heard someone else say) this phrase when referring to completion of preparations or getting organized.

It’s one of those old sayings that could have one of several origins.

One popular theory is that it came from the sport of bowling. Early bowling pins were often shorter and thicker than modern pins, which led to the nickname “ducks.” Before pin resetting machines, pins would be manually put back in place between bowling rounds, so having your “ducks in a row” would mean all the pins were properly placed before the next ball was rolled. Another possibility is the saying came from the world of nature, because mother ducks often arrange their offspring into manageable straight lines before traveling over land or water. Also, natural ducks are know to fly together a v-formation behind a leader, which allows each one to take advantage of reduced wind resistance.

The phrase might even have begun with carnival games in which small caliber rifles or air guns were used knock down moving targets in the shape of ducks, with a conveyor belt system making sure the targets were presented in a consistent, organized (even predictable) row.

For what it’s worth, I like the bowling theory.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. His columns are posted online at www.houstonherald.com. Email: ddavison@houstonherald.com.