Origins of Common, and Sometimes Annoying, Figures of Speech

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Origins of Common, & Sometimes Annoyingly Over-used, Figures of Speech

You have probably heard many of the following figures of speech and sayings below used numerous times but do you know where they came from? It is actually surprising how old some of these are and what their origins are believed to be...

"Barking up the wrong tree" - This means looking in the wrong place for something. It originates from hunting when dogs were used to identify which trees wild game would hide in. Sometimes the dogs were wrong and "barked up the wrong tree".

"It is what it is" - (One of the most annoying sayings ever uttered in my opinion) I personally think this is what people say during interviews when they can't think of anything intelligent to say (especially sports interviews). Nobody seems to know the actual origin but it appears to be much older than people think. There are instances of it showing up in written form dating back to the 1600's. It's use started to grow in the 1970's and really boomed in the early 2000's due to pop culture uses of the saying.

Getting "Fired" from your job - Obviously this means getting terminated. Their are a couple of theories on this one that make sense. One of them is that the Celts in  midieval times would burn down someone's house to get rid of them. Another theory is that it means to force something to leave, like firing a bullet out of a gun. The fire (explosion) basically forces the bullet to leave the gun. I think both of these are viable explanations.

"Beating around the bush" - This means not getting to the point. People called "beaters" used to be hired by hunters to run game out of underbrush and in some cases, because of fear of the animal being hunted, they would not want to go completely into the underbrush and would just beat around the outside.

"Bury the hatchet" - This means to come to a peaceful solution. This phrase originates with an American Indian practice.  Indians would sometimes bury all of their weapons whenever they negotiated peace agreements with other groups.

If you're interested in learning about others figures of speech a quick Google search will lead you to numerous theories and explamations.

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walter wynnchok
- February 17 2012 at 22:04

The term "Scapegoat" comes from when the people of a village used to put all their sins on the horns of a goat and send it into the wilderness.

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