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Old 10-15-2003, 05:14 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Location: Australia, Perth
Where do some of those old sayings/proverbs come from?

This thread is basically for explaining and asking about where some of the old sayings and proverbs come from, or how they came about.

just to start a few off:

"push the envelope"

"Speak of the devil"


btw, i know what they mean, just wondering where they came from?

as you were.
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Old 10-16-2003, 01:47 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I know with "speak of the devil" there used to be a lot of suspicions that saying the name of a demon/malevolent entity/the devil will tend to wake/summon them. So when someone appears just after you've mentioned them -> they're the devil!

Push the envelope I always assumed (don't know this one) was about the 'envelope' of sound surrounding a vehicle, so if you get towards the leading edge (ie get near to the speed of sound) you're 'pushing the envelope' - just before you break through.

I always wondered about cats and dogs - letting the cat out of the bag, and why the dog's b******s means something good!
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Old 10-16-2003, 06:38 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Push the envelope:
Quote:
It comes from mathematics, specifically as it is used in aeroplane design. It was popularised by Tom Wolfe’s book of 1979, The Right Stuff, about test pilots and the early space programme. It’s an excellent example of the way that a bit of specialised jargon known only to a few practitioners can move into the general language.

In mathematics, an envelope is the enclosing boundary of a set or family of curves that is touched by every curve in the system. This usage is known from the latter part of the nineteenth century. It’s also used in electrical engineering for the curve that you get when you connect the successive peaks of a wave. This envelope curve encloses or envelops all the component curves.

In aeronautics, the envelope is the outer boundary of all the curves that describe the performance of the aircraft under various conditions of engine thrust, speed, altitude, atmospheric conditions, and the like. It is generally taken to be the known limits for the safe performance of the craft.

Test pilots have to test (or push) these limits to establish exactly what the plane is capable of doing, and where failure is likely to occur—to compare calculated performance limits with ones derived from experience. Test pilots called this pushing the edge of the envelope in the 1950s and 1960s, but this was soon shortened.

Following Tom Wolfe’s book and film, the phrase began to move out into the wider world; the first recorded use in the more general sense of going (or attempting to go) beyond the limits of what is known to be possible came in the late 1980s.
Just found that on "WorldWideWords", which looks like a very cool site.
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Old 10-16-2003, 04:40 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I never understood "Dont do something a I wouldnt do". Is that meant to mean I would do something bad so you should too because you have to have fun or I do good and you have to be good too? It is used in both contexts. What context is it originally meant to be spoken in?
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Old 10-17-2003, 10:44 AM   #5 (permalink)
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often they come from the bible, like a leapard cannot change his stripes
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Old 10-17-2003, 09:58 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by danielboy
often they come from the bible, like a leapard cannot change his stripes
You've got to be kidding me, right?

This is a joke post?

Mr Mephisto
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Old 10-17-2003, 10:00 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by redlemon
Just found that on "WorldWideWords", which looks like a very cool site.
Yes. Yes it is.

Thanks for the great link.

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Old 10-17-2003, 10:37 PM   #8 (permalink)
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I'm fairly sure "letting the cat out of the bag" refers old sailing ship days (think Mutiny on the Bounty) when common discipline was lashes with a whip. The "cat" is the cat o nine tails. I guess they kept it in a bag.
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Old 10-19-2003, 02:31 PM   #9 (permalink)
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I was really disappointed that "freezing the balls of a brass monkey" was from when cannonballs were kept in a pyramid with a brass triangle round the bottom, to hold em up. When it got very very cold, the different rates of contraction of brass and lead made the heap fall over. Gutted. I thought it was something rude.
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Old 10-20-2003, 07:21 AM   #10 (permalink)
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yea alot of the old phrases come from sailing, and ur right about the cat one
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Old 10-20-2003, 09:11 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I thought the cat one was "not enough room to swing a cat" - ie that the cat o' nine tails would catch in the rigging. Is the cat/bag one there as well?
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Old 10-20-2003, 03:50 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by apeman
I was really disappointed that "freezing the balls of a brass monkey" was from when cannonballs were kept in a pyramid with a brass triangle round the bottom, to hold em up. When it got very very cold, the different rates of contraction of brass and lead made the heap fall over. Gutted. I thought it was something rude.
Of course they would keep iron cannonballs out in the open so that they could rust while exposed to the elements. A classic urban legend.

Letting th ecat out of the bag is from the days of open-air markets, when a dishonest meat merchant would put a cat in a bag instead of a pig. To reveal the truth by exposing the scam, you would "let the cat out of the bag."
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Old 10-21-2003, 02:20 AM   #13 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by MrSelfDestruct
Of course they would keep iron cannonballs out in the open so that they could rust while exposed to the elements. A classic urban legend.
my chemistry teacher told me that.. so much for education. so it is rude after all? excellent!
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Old 10-21-2003, 10:25 PM   #14 (permalink)
 
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Location: Waterloo, Ontario
Quote:
Originally posted by Lunchbox7
I never understood "Dont do something a I wouldnt do". Is that meant to mean I would do something bad so you should too because you have to have fun or I do good and you have to be good too? It is used in both contexts. What context is it originally meant to be spoken in?
I don't think you're paying attention to the saying.
Do not do something I would not do.
This is saying that you should avoid what I avoid. When I am saying this, I am saying that I'm setting an example for you...
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Old 10-23-2003, 06:19 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
You've got to be kidding me, right?

This is a joke post?
It's called the book of Proverbs. It's worth reading even if you don't believe in the creation/miracle/Jesus/resurrection...etc. stuff.
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