Ever wonder where our seemingly nonsensical little colloquialisms, sayings or adages come from?  Below is a list of I’m compiling and will continue to update as more come up.  Enjoy!

  • Racking my brain– Racking was a medieval torture technique where people were stretched out to extreme discomfort. That’s why you say you’re racking your brain when you’re really struggling to think of something or uncomfortably “stretching” your brain.  Some people spell it wracking, but it is supposed to be racking.
  • Bite the bullet- So, we say we bite the bullet when we have to accept and deal with an inevitable fate. This comes from older times when doctors would give patients a bullet to bite down on to bear a painful procedure without pain-killer.
  • How bout them apples? – This comes from a World War I weapon, a trench mortar bomb called a toffee apple.  Apparently, they resembled an apple with a stick coming out of it.  Anyway, in Rio Grande, a 1956 John Wayne movie, some guy tosses up dynamite, his partner shoots it, and then he says, “How you like them apples?” rhetorically.  So now we say it the same way when we’re impressed by something or showing off.
  • Cut to the chase- In old western movies, there was always an exciting chase scene at the end.  So cutting to the chase scene of the movie is getting to the climax or the good part. Therefore, telling someone to cut to the chase in a conversation is telling them to get to the point of the story.
  • The writing’s on the wall- This comes from a Bible story, Daniel 5:5-28.  An ominous message was written on a wall and ended up coming true.  Sdo now we say we see the writing on the wall because we see a clearly presented foreboding message of what’s to come.
  • Last-ditch effort- This saying originated as a military term. Where ditches are lines of defense, the last ditch is the last chance.  It’s a sort of long shot, desperate attempt.
  • Drop the hammer- Old rifles required the operator to pull a hammer (essentially the cock of the gun) back in order to prepare for a shot.  Pulling the trigger drops the hammer into the cartridge.  The hammer initiates the spark that ignites the shot.  Dropping the hammer is the final act of shooting the gun, or metaphorically in speech, getting something done (ending something quickly).