Why do we say “goodbye” or “so long” when leaving someone?

The word goodbye is a derivative of the early English greeting “God be with you,” or as it was said then, “God be with ye.” Over the years its abbreviated written form and pronunciation became “goodbye.” As for “so long,” it came to Britain with soldiers who had spent time in Arabic-speaking countries, where the perfect expression of goodwill is “salaam.” The unfamiliar word to the English men sounded like, and then became, “so long.”

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Why is a private detective called a “private eye”?

In 1850, the Pinkerton Detective Agency opened in Chicago with the slogan “We never sleep,” and its symbol was a large wide-open eye. Pinkerton was very effective and criminals began calling the feared operation “the eye.” Raymond Chandler and other fiction writers of the 1930s and 1940s simply embellished the underworld expression by introducing “private eye” as a description for any private investigator.

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Why is an unknown contestant called a “dark horse”?

Sam Flynn, a travelling Tennessee horse trader, often found a horse race planned in the same town as an auction. So he mixed a coal black racing stallion named Dusky Pete in with his workhorses, then quietly entered him in the local races and wagered heavily on Dusky Pete, who would invariably win. As word spread of Sam’s deception, so did the caution: “Beware the dark horse.”

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What is the origin of New Year’s resolutions?

In medieval times, during the last feast of the Christmas week, knights of the realm were required to place their hands on a peacock and vow to continue living up to their pledge of chivalry. This was known as the knight’s “peacock vow.” The New Year’s custom of resolving to live a better life originated with the Babylonians, who promised the gods that they would return all borrowed farm and cooking tools and pay off personal debts.

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Why is someone lost if he “doesn’t have a clue”?

The original spelling of clue was C-L-E-W, and its forgotten meaning is a “ball of yarn or string.” A clew of string was unravelled as a guide out after entering an unfamiliar maze or a cave. If you became lost, all you had to do was follow the string back to the point of origin. In the modern cliché, if someone “doesn’t have a clue,” he is in the dark with no idea how to get out of his dilemma.

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Why is the word late used to describe the recently deceased?

To prefix a person’s name with “the late” certainly signifies that he or she is dead, although you would be correct in using it only with the name of someone who had died within the past twenty years. Its use began with medieval rulers, whose first name often had been passed down through generations of males. To avoid confusion with the living monarch, i.e., James II, his deceased father would be referred to as “the late King James.”

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Can an eagle see a mouse from two miles away?

Yes! The expression “eagle eyes” is taken from the golden eagle, whose incredible eyesight allows it to see a rabbit or mouse from 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) away. For comparison purposes, a human being could not see the same rabbit from one-quarter of a mile (0.40 kilometers) away. As a bird of prey, an eagle has eyes that are designed for clear vision in daylight, from early morning light to early evening. Its pupil is not big enough for night vision. The bony ridge above the eagle’s eyes helps protect them from sunlight and assist in effective hunting.

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Why is going to bed called “hitting the hay”?

When going to sea, early sailors had to provide for their own bedding. This need was catered to by merchants on the docks who, for a shilling, sold the seamen crude canvas sacks stuffed with hay. When heading off to sleep, a sailor would announce that he was going to “hit the hay.” Although less crude than those coarse canvases, early North American settlers also used hay to stuff mattresses and pillows, so when going to bed, they too would “hit the hay.”

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