Good speakers and good communicators use clever and uncommon saying and phrases in their dialogue. 

Poor communicators litter their communication with clichés.

And, the sad part is:

Most People Don't Even Know

The True Meaning Or Origin Of The Clichés The Use!

I'm sure you've heard the cliché "Go the whole nine yards". Nowadays that particular phrase is taken to mean "try your very best and do everything you can".

That's not what it always meant though.

Machine gunners in the early 1900's used to lay out their bullets in a line nine yards long. If I were to instruct you to "Go The Whole Nine Yards", I would be instructing you to use all your bullets and

Kill As Many People As Possible!

Read this list, discover the true meanings and origins of these overused phrases, and choose to say something else instead.

Overused and Tired Clichés:

Break The Ice

Something that relives a moment of tension between two or more parties or strangers.

When trade routes between two countries froze over, the worked together to break the frozen ice to reopen the routes.

Dime A Dozen

Something very plentiful, common, and therefore, inexpensive.

In the 1800’s, items such as peaches could be bought in groups of twelve (a dozen) for only a dime.

Go The Whole Nine Yards

Do something to the fullest extent possible.

Machine gun belts used to be nine yards long. Instructing a machine gunner to “go the whole nine yards” meant to instruct him to use up all of his ammunition and to kill as many people as possible.

Rule Of Thumb

Generally accepted rule or practice.

In 1782, Sir Francis Buller, a UK judge, ruled that a man could beat his wife with a stick as long as it wasn’t wider than his thumb.

Bite The Bullet

To accept something difficult and unwanted.

Back in the 1800’s, doctors would have patients bite a bullet if the doctor had to do something painful to them.

Mad As A Hatter

To be crazy or insane.

In 17th century France, hatters would sometime get mercury poising from the felt used in hats, and this mercury poising caused irritability causing them to appear “insane”.

Bury The Hatchet

To end an argument or conflict and to make peace.

When Native Americans were negotiating peace, they would agree to bury their weapons which included hatches (and knives, tomahawks, etc.)

Don’t Throw The Baby Out With The Bathwater

Ensure you keep the valuable items when throwing out the useless items.

Back in the 1500s, people would only bathe once a year, and everyone used the same bathwater. The baby would usually be the last to be washed, so the baby would usually enjoy the dirty water. The water was so dirty that if the baby was left in the water, it could easily be left when it was time to dump the water out.

Wax Poetic

To become exceedingly verbose or to use a lot more words than are required.

The term “to wax” at one point was used to mean “to grow”. So, to “wax poetic” was used to mean “to grow poetic”, though nowadays the cliché also implies that the speaker is showing a lot of enthusiasm as well.

Tongue in Cheek

Without really meaning what I’m saying or writing.

In the 1800’s, me putting my tongue in my cheek would mean I was expressing contempt towards you.

Give The Cold Shoulder

Ignore or turn my back on someone else.

When a British dinner party host wanted a guest to leave, he would serve them a cold cut of meat, likely a shoulder.

Mind Your Beeswax

Stop paying attention to me, and pay attention to yourself or your situation instead.

Women’s makeup used to be made from beeswax, and it tended to melt when they sat close to a candle or fire. If I told you to “mind your beeswax”, I would likely be telling you that your beeswax makeup is melting.

Cat Got Your Tongue?

What are you inexplicably or suddenly silent?

The English Navy used to use a whip people with something called a “Cat-o’nine-tails”, and it would hurt so much that the recipient would be silent for a while. Also, ancient Egyptians would cut out the tongues of liars and cheaters and feed them to cats.

Catch 22

A paradoxical situation where someone cannot escape due to contradictory rules.

It came from the 1961 novel “Catch-22” written by Joseph Heller. The number “22” has not actual significance; Heller’s publishers just liked the way “Catch-22” sounded.

Butter Someone Up

To flatter someone and make them feel good.

In ancient India, devout followers would throw butter balls at statues of their gods to seek forgiveness and good fortune.

Turn A Blind Eye

To ignore facts or situations.

There was a Naval Commander back in the day who was ordered to stop attacking another fleet. He was blind in one eye, so he held his telescope to his bind eye and “pretended” not to see the cease-fire order.

Caught Red-Handed

Be caught in the act of doing something wrong.

The ‘red’ refers to animal blood. There was a time it was illegal to butcher another person’s animal, and the only way to figure out who butchered the animal was to see who had blood-stained hands.

Rub The Wrong Way

To annoy someone.

Early Americans used to ask their servants to rub their floorboards “the right way” i.e. wet cloths, then dry cloths. The wrong way would leave streaks and ruin the floors.

I Have A Bridge To Sell You

You are very gullible.

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, George C. Parker, a notorious con artist, “sold” famous landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge to people who were gullible enough to buy them from him.

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