Monday, December 21, 2015

Word Origins put you in the Catbird Seat

Point Blank Range - The term derives from French middle age usage. Blanc translates to white and refers to the white circle found at the center of a target. Point references the point of an arrow. So if the point was aligned to the blanc on the target, the archer would hit it as long as he was close enough where gravity wouldn't come into play. In other words the shot was taken at point blank range

Indian Giver - This offensive term means giving a gift and then deciding you want it back. Its evolution has morphed from the misguided idea that the Indians gave us America and then wanted it back. But the real origin arose from the travels of Lewis and Clark. Indian tradition saw gift giving as an extension of trade. So the tandem felt slighted that Indians expected a reciprocation of equal value when for any gift presented. This was contrary to the idea that the giving of a gift from the European point of view could be left at that. This clash of cultural value gave rise to the term.

Dressed to the Nines - It was once said that tailors required nine yards of material to make a suit. So the more material used, the more impressive the attire, and the designation of a well dressed person ensued.

In the Nick of Time – In old England, meals began with pudding, which at the time consisted of a sausage or haggis stew. So if you made it for the beginning of the meal, you had arrived at “pudding time.”
The term was abridged to designate a more precise arrival than simply getting their about the time dinner started. As such, a nick referred to the manner in which people kept score by notching or cutting a surface. At the same time, pudding started to refer to a sweet dessert, which created an obvious discrepancy between the beginning and end of a meal. So nick replaced pudding and sufficed to describe getting there just under the wire.

Sitting in the Catbird Seat.  This has its origins in the American South.  Catbirds are proficient at imitation and their nemesis – the cat – is who they chiefly mock. Proudly, the catbird elevates to the highest perch so as to emote their preeminence. Once there, it is said, they have reached the cat bird seat – or in human terms – reaching the optimal position to sit pretty.

Kick the Bucket – Contrary to what some believe, it likely does not originate from the idea that someone would stand on a bucket and kick it away in order to hang themselves. In 16th Century Engand bucket also meant beam from the French trebuchet. Thus, animals awaiting slaughter hung from their feet until the fatal blow, and the final struggle was said to culminate when the animal’s death rattle kicked the bucket.

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