Recently these words came out of my mouth when my wife asked how I was doing. While searching for a clever comeback, somehow my brain pulled this rather strange phrase out.
Finer than frog hair?
Why is that a saying? As we both stood there for a moment, I couldn’t help but wonder why that came out. I assumed it was a saying that originated from my South Georgia roots. Who would even think of such a thing? And is frog hair really fine?
This got me to wondering about other odd sayings that are out there and how they originated:
“Finer than frog hair”
- What does it mean? It means a person is in good spirits or excellent mood.
- Origin: The allusion to the hairs on a frog clearly points us to the ‘slender, narrow’, meaning of the phrase. Just as clearly, (most) frogs don’t have hair, and the ironic reference to it is intended to highlight the effect.
“I’ll keep my eyes peeled”
- What does it mean? Although it sounds like a painful thing to do to our eyeballs, it actually means we are going to watch something very closely.
- Origin: From about the 17th century on, pill was commonly spelt peel and took on the sense of “to remove or strip” in the weakened sense of removing an outer covering, such as a fruit. The figurative sense of keeping alert, by removing any covering of the eye that might impede vision, seems to have appeared in the US about 1850.
“I beg to differ”
- What does it mean? It is usually a way to disagree with someone in a nice way. You may not actually resort to begging but disagreeing kindly.
- Origin: Most sources indicate this saying originated from England as a proper British phrase.
“Let’s hightail it out of here”
- What does it mean? While the image of such a phrase is rather humorous, it usually means to get away very quickly.
- Origin: From comparisons of animals that raise their tails when fleeing. Could also be from the days when horses were our primary modes of transportation.
“You’re a sight for sore eyes”
- What does it mean? A way to say you have missed someone or that you are happy to see them.
- Origin: This phrase was first recorded by Jonathan Swift, in A complete collection of genteel and ingenious conversation, 1738.
- What does it mean? We are wishing someone to have a good night’s sleep. Of course I have already heard it with “…and don’t let the bed bugs bite”. Yes, that’s a real comforting thought.
- Origin: This 19th century expression isn’t, as is often wrongly claimed, a reference to the tightness of the strings used to support mattresses.
“Blood is thicker than water”
- What does it mean? Family is more important than anything else. Yeah, you would think right?
- Origin: In ancient Middle Eastern culture, blood rituals between men symbolized bonds that were far greater than those of family. The saying also has to do with “blood brothers,” because warriors who symbolically shared the blood they shed in battle together were said to have stronger bonds than biological brothers.
“I quit cold turkey”
- What does it mean? To quit something quickly.
- Origin: People believed that during withdrawal, the skin of drug addicts became translucent, hard to the touch, and covered with goose bumps – like the skin of a plucked turkey.
“Waking up on the wrong side of the bed”
- Meaning: Waking up in a bad mood. If you’ve known people like this you might want to consider the origin.
- Origin: The left side of the body or anything having to do with the left was often associated considered sinister. To ward off evil, innkeepers made sure the left side of the bed was pushed against a wall, so guests had no other option but to get up on the right side of the bed.
“Getting the cart before the horse”
- What does it mean? Getting things out of order
- Origin: The meaning of the phrase is based on the common knowledge that a horse usually pulls a cart, despite rare examples of vehicles pushed by horses in 19th-century Germany and early 20th-century France.
There are many more interesting phrases we use and, if your are from the South, the list is even longer. Comedian Jeff Foxworthy has educated a lot of people on some of those. We have some very interesting sayings. Hopefully, I won’t be a frequent user of “fine as frog hair” in my vocabulary. It’s even more confusing to use it around Halloween. Some folks might get the idea that you are a witch and using frog hair for some kind of spell.
Okay, let me hightail it out of here before I say anything else…