English is a funny language, they say. And the fact that it has interesting idioms cannot be denied. Have you ever wondered how and why these common English idioms came into existence? The surprising origin stories of these common English idioms are sure to bewilder you.
Let us check out these common English idioms and their enthralling origins.
1. Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride
Meaning: In a literal sense, this famous common English idiom means that a woman is always a bridesmaid but never a bride. The idiom portrays an unhappy, self-pitying emotion.
Inception: The emotion of this common English idiom can be traced back to the time when Fred W. Leigh recorded the tunes of the song “Why Am I Always A Bridesmaid?” in a Victorian music hall. Although the origin of this common English idiom was the song, it gained its fame in 1924 in a Listerine Mouthwash ad. The ad revolved around a sad lady named Edna who, due to bad breath, wasn’t able to find the love of her life. The intention of the ad was to establish the idea of using Listerine, in bulk, in a humorous and intriguing manner.
2. Pull Someone’s Leg
Meaning: Mocking someone or joking with them with the intention to tease them.
Inception: Ages ago, the literal definition of this common English idiom was practiced by thieves. One person from these gangs of robbers was given the duty of a tripper. The tripper had to pull the leg of a pedestrian, quite literally, trip them over and steal from them. However, the idiom got a lighter tone and now describes someone who is cracking a joke or is mockingly teasing someone.
3. Meeting A Deadline
Meaning: To finish an assigned task or a list of various tasks at a predefined time.
Inception: During the Civil War, lines were drawn around the prison camps’ boundaries. Any prisoner who tried to cross this line, was shot instantly on the spot by the guards, thereby coining the term ‘deadline’. Now, this common English idiom, with minor variations, is used extensively.
4. Basket Case
Meaning: This common English idiom is used to define someone who is unhinged.
Inception: In World War I, baskets were used to carry soldiers who lost their limbs. After the war, the U.S. Military, coined the term “basket cases” to denote cases in which the soldier has lost his limbs. Likewise, a bulletin issued in 1919 by the U.S. Command on Public went as follows:
“The existence of “basket cases” in our hospitals has been denied by the Surgeon General of the army.”
5. Bark Up The Wrong Tree
Meaning: Taking a wrong decision or investing time and effort in the wrong direction.
Inception: This common English idiom was coined back in 1833 by Davy Crockett. Once upon a time, when hunting raccoons was an enthralling sport, hunting dogs were taken along on hunting activities to sniff and identify the tree with a raccoon. Being nocturnal in nature, dogs would sometimes bark at the wrong tree. Hence, giving birth to the extremely common English idiom.