River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Did You Know 2

September 2002

The meaning behind more everyday phrases

I was very interested in the derivations of the phrases that Ron Watts contributed in last month's Pump and thought that you might be interested in some of my favourites.

1. Pot Luck:

Dining off the contents of the family cooking pot which was kept hot over the fire and into which everything that had 'gone to pot' was put, was always something of a lottery. Taking "Pot Luck" is now taking a chance, in the same way as those sitting down to eat what was in the pot, had no idea what to expect.

2. Love:

In tennis and in other ball and racquet games, 'love' is the score of nil. This derives from the French for egg, 'l'oeuf', which is the shape of a zero.

3. Raining cats and dogs:

In Norse mythology, the cat was closely associated with the weather, in fact witches were believed to disguise themselves as cats, when they rode on storm clouds. Dogs too were associated with the clouds as attendants to Odin, the god of storms. Together they represented torrential rain and fierce wind that characterised the weather when "it rained cats and dogs".

4. Red letter days:

These are the days to be looked forward to and remembered with great pleasure. In olden times, saints days and important Christian feast days were marked in red in church calendars to highlight them from all the others, which were in black.

5. Stump up:

"Stumpy" was 19th century slang for money. Hence this expression for paying what is due and paying it smartly.

Graham Forster

Copyright remains with independent content providers where specified, including but not limited to Village Pump contributors. All rights reserved.