Sunday, October 09, 2005

Words and expressions origins

I love finding out word and expresion meanings. We often say things that we do not even know the meaning of. Here are some;

acid test - and absolute test - nitric acid was used to determined the purity of gold when it was used as currency in the days before coinage.

above board - honest - a metaphor based on a conjuror preparing a trick with hands above the 'board' (table), rather than below it, where the trickery could be concealed.

across the board - all - racetrack bookmakers in the USA showed the odds on boards of horses finishing places; an across-the-board bet was one which backed a horse to win or be placed in the first three.

smart alec - the origin dates back to 1840's New York City fraudster Aleck Hoag, who, with his wife posing as a prostitute, would rob the customers. Hoag bribed the police to escape prosecution, but ultimately paid the price for being too clever when he tried to cut the police out of the deal, leading to the pair's arrest. In describing Hoag at the time, the police were supposedly the first to use the 'smart aleck' expression.

I will post some more tomorrow.......


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