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.

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