Sunday, July 6, 2008

Where did that phrase come from?

I woke up this morning and Loki was jumping all over the room, on the bed, under the bed, into the bathroom, back out of the bathroom, back on the bed, well you get the idea. So I said to my S.O. "Boy, Lil Man is full of piss and vinegar today" and we both started laughing and commenting on how energy is wasted on the young.


So, I wanted to find out the origin of some of my favorite phrases. I found a great site at where all these answers came from. Enjoy!

Full of Piss and Vinegar

Rowdy, boisterous, full of youthful energy.
The earliest citation I've found is from 1938 in John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath:
Grampa walked up and slapped Tom on the chest, and his eyes grinned with affection and pride. "How are ya, Tommy?""O.K.," said Tom. "How ya keepin' yaself?""Full a piss an' vinegar," said Grampa.
There are other similar phrases that came before that which may be the source.
In 1922 Joyce has this in Ulysses - "All wind and piss like a tanyard cat."
As far back as 1602, in Return from Parnassas - "They are pestilent fellowes, they speake nothing but bodkins, and pisse vinegar."
Those earlier citations appear to indicate a more negative meaning to the phrase. 'Wind and piss', or as it is more often given 'piss and wind' is usually taken to mean empty talk, full of bombast. Vinegar is associated with sourness and acidity in many other citations. Peter B. Kyne's 1922 novel They Also Serve includes what seems to be a straightforward polite alternative to 'piss and vinegar':
"He's full of pep and vinegar and wild for exercise."
Vinegar has been in the language as the name of the familiar liquid since the 12th century. During the 1920s vinegar was used to mean vitality and energy and that's the meaning in 'piss and vinegar' and 'pep and vinegar'. At that time many phrases indicating a general perkiness and vitality entered the language, often for no other reason than linguistic exuberance. It's most likely that the phrase originated around then, possibly as an adaptation of the existing 'vig and vigour', which means much the same.

Drink like a Fish

Drink heavily, especially of alcoholic drink.
Clearly an allusion to fishes' close association with water and their continuous open-mouthed taking in of water to obtain oxygen. The phrase is known since 1640 and appears in Fletcher and Shirley's The night-walker, or the little theife, from that date:
"Give me the bottle, I can drink like a Fish now, like an Elephant."
'Drink like an elephant' didn't catch on. There is a more recent potential boost to use 'drink like a fish' - at least for Californian Valley girls. In January 2005 a press release for the Dalian Fisherman's Song Maritime Biological Brewery in China, said that they had developed a fermentation process to make fish into wine. So now, you can 'drink, like, a fish'.

Elvis has left the building

The show is over - go home.
This was announced at the end of Elvis Presley's concerts to encourage fans to accept that there would be no further encores and to go home. It is now used more widely to indicate that someone has made an exit or that something is complete.
Oddly, although the phrase was routinely used to encourage the audience to leave, the first time that it was announced it was to encourage them to stay in their seats. That first use was in December 1956 by Horace Logan, who was the announcer at the Louisiana Hayride show, in which Elvis was a regular performer. Presley had very quickly become very popular with teenagers but had previously taken a regular lowly spot at the Hayride, which was his first big break. He was on the bill quite early in proceedings but after his performance was over and the encore complete, the crowd of teenagers, who weren't Hillbilly enthusiasts, began to leave. Logan announced:
"Please, young people ... Elvis has left the building. He has gotten in his car and driven away ... Please take your seats"
Al Dvorin was the regular stage announcer for Elvis Presley during the 1970s. He picked up the phrase and his version can be heard on several live recordings:
"Ladies and gentlemen, Elvis has left the building. Thank you and goodnight."
The use of this term and the fact that Elvis is probably the most prominent celebrity to be known (despite claims to the contrary) to be unambiguously dead, have given rise to the verb 'to Elvis', i.e. to make a sudden exit.
The Kelsey Grammar sitcom 'Frasier' used a play on the line at the end of each show - "Frasier has left the building."

How now brown cow?

A nonsense phrase with no real meaning as such, although it also sometimes used as a jovial greeting.
Used to be used in elocution teaching to demonstrate rounded vowel sounds. It isn't clear when this phrase was coined or where. Itwas certainly known in the USA by 1942, although is probably earlier. It appears in an item in the Maryland newspaper The Capital, in Fegruary 1942:
"Laird Cregar, now contributing his booming voice to 'Ten Gentlemen from West Point': explains how he got it. When he first tried out for the Pasadena Community Playhouse his voice wouldn't carry past the front rows. Coach Belle Kennedy had him declaim How, Now, Brown Cow? and The Rain in Spain Still Stains - over and over."
The term Brown Cow had previously been used in Scotland as a jocular name for a beer barrel. Allan Ramsay, used it inhis The gentle shepherd, a Scots pastoral comedy, 1725:
" The auld anes think it best With the brown cow to clear their een."

Shut your cake-hole

Be quiet.
This slang expression is of UK origin, dating from the middle of the 20th century. It was widely used in the UK until about 1970s and, although somewhat archaic now, it is still used occasionally. Hunt and Pringle record it in their 1943 reference book Service Slang:
"Cake hole, the airman's name for his or anyone else's mouth."
The later equivalent term 'shut your pie-hole' began use in the USA in the 1980s. It isn't clear if that derives from the 'cake-hole' version or was coined independently.

The pot calling the kettle black

The notion of a criticism a person is making of another could equally well apply to themself.Origin
This phrase originates in Cervantes' Don Quixote, or at least in Thomas Shelton's 1620 translation - Cervantes Saavedra's History of Don Quixote:
"You are like what is said that the frying-pan said to the kettle, 'Avant, black-browes'."
The first person who is recorded as using the phrase in English was William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, in his Some fruits of solitude, 1693:
"For a Covetous Man to inveigh against Prodigality... is for the Pot to call the Kettle black."
Shakespeare had previously expressed a similar notion in a line in Troilus and Cressida, 1601- "The raven chides blackness."

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