What In The Sam Hill Are You Doing? (And Other Weird Sayings)

sayingSometimes we say words or phrases that we have either heard or has been passed down to us.  Here are some more of these sayings and why we say them:

“What In The Sam Hill?”

Back when people practiced some restrain in using profanity, some would use substitute phrases such as this one.  Sam Hill was a miner and geologist in the 1800’s in the United States and was known to have a foul mouth.  It is thought that the use of his name is a substitute for using foul language.  (And I had always thought it was SAND Hill!)

“Let’s Bury The Hatchet”

While it sounds fairly violent, it is actually a saying people use to reconcile their differences.  It is thought to have originated with Native Americans as a ceremonial act between tribes when they would come to an agreement by burying their hatchets in the ground.

“Let’s just throw in the towel”

This is usually what someone says when they surrender to a situation.  The term comes from the sport of Boxing.  As soon as a boxer’s coach notices that his fighter had been hit too many times and is no longer able to defend himself, he will throw a towel in the ring to end the fight.

“I’ll be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail”

Although not commonly used today, this referred to the quickness that one intends to do something.  A “shake” is a recognized unit of time in how fast a lamb can move its tail.  So if someone says that to you, that means they will do something quickly.

“We’re gonna have a gully washer”

If someone tells you this I suggest you had better get inside.  The term “gully washer” means heavy rain which originated that any gutter or gullys will be cleaned by a downpour of rain.

“I’m fixin to go to the store”

This is a Southern term which dates back to the 14th century when “fix” meant to set one’s eye or mind to do something.  The meaning of getting ready to do something is American in origin and was first recorded in the 18th Century.  When someone tells you this, it means they are getting ready to do something soon.

“I survived by the skin of my teeth”

It sounds like some kind of dental nightmare.  It means to narrowly escape something.  The origin goes back to the Bible and the Book of Job in the passage “My bone cleaveth to my skin and to my flesh, and I am escaped with the skin of my teeth.”

“They were looking at me like a deer in headlights”

What presenter hasn’t had this experience?   The phrase refers to the behavior of deer who are caught in the beams of car headlights at night and their tendency to freeze instead of running out of the car’s path.  This means people are staring without comprehending what you are saying.  You might want to repeat it again.

“He/she is a brown-noser”

You’ll hear this term mostly in an office environment around the water cooler (or wherever the office gossipers gather).  It refers to someone who is flattering someone for their own interest such as a promotion or favor.  The origin goes to how dogs greet each other and try to be friendly by sniffing their butts.  Yes, the next time you witness this in the office you’ll laughing as you envision them as dogs.

“Not my circus, not my monkeys”

If you hear this one, don’t worry.  There aren’t any real monkeys around but the term does originate from the circus.  When people say this they mean something isn’t their responsibility or that they are not controlling the situation.


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