10 Common English Idioms and Their Strange Historical Origins

If there is one thing that most people take for granted, it is the language they grew up in. The words we use and their respective meanings are the result of centuries of linguistic evolution that we rarely consider. Much of our social interaction today is characterized by phrases that would seem completely meaningless if not for their widespread use – we call them idioms (and if you’re wondering where the term came from,it’s Greek and means personal. ”)

For example, if you are shocked or surprised by a big discovery, you can shout, “The cat flew out of the bag!” But you don’t really mean the cats that used to hide in the bag. When a friend tackles a glaring problem that you’ve both been dancing around for months, you finally recognize the “elephant in the room,” even though there is probably literally nowhere near the elephant.

It turns out that these idioms did not materialize by accident. Here are the origins of the 10 stupid things we say.


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