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"Did you know" - Just for fun

Roger Lee

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Just for fun did you know,



In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a "shot" of whiskey.



American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.



This is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died you "bought the farm" for your survivors.



This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.



Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it as common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn't want to deal he would "pass the buck" to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there".



The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff" and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.



The Old English word for "spider" was "cob".



Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.



These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played small town along the Mississippi River. Unlike the boat shown in the movie "Showboat" these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is "showboating".



In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in a effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.



Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they "barged in".



Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless "hog wash".



The word "curfew" comes from the French phrase "couvre-feu", which means "cover the fire". It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. It was later adopted into Middle English as "curfeu", which later became the modern "curfew". In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a "curfew".



As the paper goes through the rotary printing press friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press it is hot. The expression means to get immediate information. 




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My favourite:


The word 'hooligan' comes from an Irish family that lived in London in the late 1800s that was violent, brash, and always in trouble with the police.


In America you say 'The Fightin' Irish'.


I imagine it wasn't just the Hooligans then!

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The Irish sometimes had cause. My great great grandmother came over in 1852. She was recorded as having talked about the English "riding through the corn". I assume that was a bunch of toffs out chasing foxes through the wheat field (I think the English still refer to wheat as corn?). That would "get my Irish up", too.



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Roger has fallen prey to some Urban Myths...here are some corrections:


Buck Stops: The expression came from poker true, but the knife had a buckhorn handle and was used to indicate the person whose turn it was to deal.


Riff-Raff:  derived from Old French "rif et raf" meaning "one and all, every bit"


Shot of Whiskey: 1857 in the small town of New Waverly, Indiana, a local man attempting to open a saloon against fierce local temperance opposition. The initial stock was a barrel of whiskey was sitting on the open freight platform. A local man who was an ardent temperance supporter fired his rifle and shot a hole in the barrel, draining it of its contents. "The remedy was effectual, and the saloon was not opened, and ever after, when the boys wanted a drink they would ask for a 'shot of redeye.'"


Whole Nine Yards: this phrase is from 1907 in southern Indiana. It is related to the expression "the whole six yards," used around the same time in Kentucky and South Carolina. Both phrases are variations on the whole ball of wax, first recorded in the 1880s


Raining Cats And Dogs:  refers to the middle ages in England when houses had thatched roofs and the dogs and cats would sleep on them as heat was generated from rotting thatch.  when it rained, the cats and dogs would jump off the roofs.

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