We use all kinds of odd phrases, expressions, and sayings every day, without stopping to think of where they might come from. A lot of our well-loved phrases actually have quite sinister origins, so we’ve gathered a few below that you might not have known!
Paying through the nose: the phrase we know today to mean ‘paying an excessive amount for something’ comes from Norse mythology, where the punishment for refusing to pay tax to the king was either the slitting, or removal, of the nose!
Baker’s dozen: In 13th century Britain, under the reign of Henry III, a law called the Assize of the Bread and Ale stated that bakers could lose their hands for skimping on the weight of their bread. Because it was hard to make all loaves exactly the same, bakers would throw in a small piece of extra bread when they sold a loaf. If a customer bought 12 loaves, the baker would add an extra loaf, to be completely sure they could keep their hands attached! This is why we use ‘baker’s dozen’ to mean thirteen!
Mad as a Hatter: Although it is often assumed that this phrase originated with Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland’s character ‘The Mad Hatter’, the phrase actually has its origins with 18th Century hat makers who were exposed to mercury in their work,which led to a variety of physical and mental ailments, including tremors, speech problems, emotional instability and hallucinations!
Meeting a deadline: Now used to describe the date or time before which something must be done, the word deadline has a much more sinister (and literal) origin! In a prison for soldiers during the American Civil war, the deadline was an actual line drawn in front of the prison fences, that if a prisoner were to cross, they would be shot dead.
Do you have any other examples of common words or phrases that have dark origins? Let us know on our social media pages!