6 Popular Phrases and their Origins

Read below to find out the history behind 6 popular phrases .

6. Bring home the bacon


Though today the expression means either “return with a victory” or “bring home cash” —the two not being unrelated—in the twelfth century, actual bacon was awarded to a happily married couple.
At the church of Donmow, in Essex County, England, a flitch of cured and salted bacon used to be presented annually to the husband and wife who, after a year of matrimony, proved that they had lived in greater harmony and fidelity than any other competing couple. The earliest recorded case of the bacon award dates from 1445, but there is evidence that the custom had been in existence for at least two hundred years. Exactly how early winners proved their idyllic cohabitation is unknown.
However, in the sixteenth century, each couple that came forward to seek the prize was questioned by a jury of (curiously) six bachelors and six maidens. The couple giving the most satisfactory answers victoriously took home the coveted pork. The prize continued to be awarded, though at irregular intervals, until late in the nineteenth century.

5. Eat One’s Hat


A person who punctuates a prediction with “If I’m wrong, I’ll eat my hat” should know that at one time, he or she might well have had to do just that—eat hat. The culinary curiosity known as a “hatte” appears in one of the earliest European cookbooks, though its ingredients and means of preparation are somewhat vague. “Hattes” are made of eggs, veal, dates, saffron, salt, and so forth, states the recipe—but they could also include tongue, honey, rosemary, kidney, fat, and cinnamon. The book makes it clear that the recipe was not particularly popular and that in the hands of an amateur cook it was essentially uneatable. So much so that a braggart who backed a bet by offering to “eat hatte” had either a strong stomach or confidence in winning

4. Give the cold shoulder


Give the Cold Shoulder. Today this is a figurative expression, meaning to slight a person with a snub. During the Middle Ages in Europe, however, to “give the cold shoulder” was a literal term that meant serving a guest who overstayed his welcome a platter of cooked but cold beef shoulder. After a few meals of cold shoulder, even the most persistent guest was supposed to be ready to leave.

3. Eat Humble Pie


During the eleventh century, every member of a poor British family did not eat the same food at the table. When a stag was caught in a village, the tenderest meat went to its captor, his eldest son, and the captor’s closest male friends. The man’s wife, his other children, and the families of his male friends received the stag’s “umbles” —the heart, liver, tongue, brain, kidneys, and entrails. To make them more tasteful, they were seasoned and baked into an “umble pie.” Long after the dish was discontinued (and Americans added an h to the word), “to eat humble pie” became a punning allusion to a humiliating drop in social status, and later to any form of humiliation.

2. Take the cake


Take the Cake. Meaning, with a sense of irony, “to win the prize,” the American expression is of Southern black origin. At cakewalk contests in the South, a cake was awarded as first prize to the person who could most imaginatively strut—that is, cakewalk. Many of the walks are known to have involved tap dancing, and some of the fancier steps later became standard in tap dancers’ plays.

Talk Turkey

Meaning to speak candidly about an issue, the expression is believed to have originated from a story reported in the nineteenth century by an employee of the U.S. Engineer Department. The report states:
“Today I heard an anecdote that accounts for one of our common sayings. It is related that a white man and an Indian went hunting; and afterwards, when they came to divide the spoils, the white man said, ‘You take the buzzard and I will take the turkey, or, I will take the turkey and you may take the buzzard.’ The Indian replied, ‘You never once said turkey to me.’ ”