Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Why We say . . . .

I can’t vouch for the verity of these, but I sure had a lot of fun reading them. Thank you, my Kuwait friend. 🙂

1. Q: Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?
A: Long ago dishes and cookware in Europe were made of a dense orange clay called pygg. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, these became known as pygg banks. An English potter misunderstood the word and made a bank resembling a pig…and it caught on.

2. Q: Why do dimes, quarters and half dollars have notches, while pennies and nickels do not?
A: The US Mint began putting notches on the edges of coins containing gold and silver to discourage holders from shaving off small quantities of the precious metals. Dimes, quarters and half dollars are notched because they used to contain silver. Pennies and nickels aren’t notched because the metals they contain weren’t considered valuable enough to shave.

3. Q: Why do men’s clothes have buttons on the right while women’s clothes have buttons on the left?
A: When buttons were invented, they were very expensive and worn primarily by the rich. Because wealthy women were dressed by maids, dressmakers put the buttons on the maid’s right. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. And that’s where women’s buttons have remained since.

4. Q. Why do X’s at the end of a letter signify kisses?
A: In the Middle Ages, when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X represented an oath to fulfill obligations specified in the document. The X and the kiss eventually became synonymous.

5. Q: Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called passing the buck?
A: In card games, it was once customary to pass an item, called a buck, from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player didn’t wish to assume the responsibility, he’d pass the buck to the next player.

6. Q: Why do people clink their glasses before drinking a toast?
A: It was once common to try to kill an enemy by offering him a poisoned drink. To prove to a guest that a drink was safe, it became customary for the host to pour a small amount of the guest’s drink into his own glass. They’d then drink simultaneously. When a guest trusted his host, he’d merely touch or clink the host’s glass with his own.

7. Q: Why are people in the public eye said to be in the limelight?
A: Invented in 1825, limelight was used in lighthouses and stage lighting by burning a cylinder of lime, thus producing a brilliant light. In the theatre performers in the limelight were seen by the audience to be the center of attention.

8. Q: Why do ships and aircraft in trouble use mayday as their call for help?
A: This comes from the French word m’aidez (meaning help me) and is pronounced mayday.

9. Q: Why is someone who is feeling great on cloud nine?
A: Types of clouds are numbered according to the altitudes they attain, with nine being the highest. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, that person is floating well above worldly cares.

10. Q: Why are zero scores in tennis called love?
A: In France, where tennis first attained popularity, a big, round zero on the scoreboard looked like an egg and was called l’oeuf– which is French for egg. When tennis was introduced into the US, Americans pronounced it love.

11. Q: In golf, where did the term caddie come from?
A. When Mary, later Queen of Scots, went to France as a young girl (for education & survival), King Louis learned that she loved the Scottish game golf. So he had the first golf course outside of Scotland built for her enjoyment. To make sure she was properly chaperoned (and guarded) while she played, Louis hired cadets from a military school to accompany her. Mary liked this and, when she returned to Scotland (not a very good idea in the long run), she brought the practice with her. In French the word cadet is pronounced ca DAY, which the Scots changed to caddie.

June 4, 2010 - Posted by | Language, Words

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