Olde English phrases

October 27, 2015
TREND Images via Philadelphia

ENGLISH SAYINGS & CUSTOMS that we have grown up with and taken for granted were
explained during a tour of the Anne Hathaway house in Victoria, British Columbia.
THE CLINK The name of a prison which was on Clink Street in the Southwark area of London.

Claudie wrote: I always thought that the doors of the cells went "clink" when they shut behind the prisoner. Maybe a more accurate name would be the "clang".

BLACK MARKET In medieval England there were nomadic mercenaries who wandered the country side and would sell their services to the highest bidder. These were hardened fighters who lived solitary lives in the wilderness. They did not have the luxury of servants to polish their armor and it would oxidize to a blackish hue, and they came to be known as black knights. At local town festivals they would have exhibition jousting matches in which the winner of the fight would win the loser's weapons and armor. The local gentry, softened by the good life, would lose to these black knights. The nomadic knights didn't have much use for an extra set of armor and would sell it back to them immediately after the fight. The losing nobility would be forced to buy back their armor and this after market came to be known as the "Black Market" (submitted by Gonzalo).

Judith interjects: Isn't it kind of strange that if "black market" is a medieval term, the Oxford English Dictionary doesn't show it as having been first used until 1931 in "The Economist." Come on, this is garbage. Fun garbage maybe, but garbage.

SON OF A GUN After sailors had crossed the Atlantic to the West Indies, they would take the native women on board the ship and have their way with them in between the cannons. Some of the women the sailors left behind would have boys, who were called sons between the guns.

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PATENT LEATHER After the Patten shoe which the young women wore in the buttery. When the cream spilled on their shoes, the fat would tend to make the leather shiny.
DONE TO A TURN Meat was roasted until cooked on an upright spit which had to be turned by hand.
BEAT AROUND THE BUSH Game birds were scared out of their hiding places under bushes and then killed.
CUT THROUGH THE RED TAPE Solicitors kept their clients papers in a file folder tied with red ribbon to prevent the papers from falling out. Of course, when they wanted to get at the papers, they would have to cut through the red tape.

Note from Glenn Barry: I read that "red tape" came from the Indian Administrative Service practice of tying files with tape, these were moved by "Peons" by hand from office to office. No senior person would move a file no matter how important because of the caste system. Thus the uneducated lower caste would slow down the movement of files, thus the files were tied up with red tape, having been to India in recent times and seen this still the case I can understand where it came from. One official I went to see had the file we were talking about on the bench behind him but rang his bell for the peon to come, which took some minutes, and then asked him to get the file! This took .2 of a second.

Malinda wrote: It is often thought that carrying identification is a modern concept, but sixteenth century Europe was a fountain of red tape and bureaucracy. Even a person who lived in a small village and never left it, had papers to prove their identity. The first of these kinds of...

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