Alternative etymologies for popular idioms

To cut a long story short– back in the 16th century, London editors would literally cut out bits of manuscript with a knife to shorten ones they felt too long.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush– originated amongst shooters in the upper classes. A true marksman, it was said, was to be able to shoot a bird from somebody’s hand at seventy paces.

Too many cooks spoil the broth– it was a common practice in pre-modern England for cooks to keep uneaten broth in the pot while filling it up with a new batch. The old broth would often congeal over time and make the entire dish less than appetising.

As the crow flies– geographers would determine the distance between two points by sending out crows and seeing how long it took for them to fly there and back.

A dog’s dinner– in rich households, poorly-made food was often fed to the dogs to avoid the chef bringing shame on the family by serving it.

Cutting a rug– court dancers often wore shoes with very high and narrow heels which were capable of putting holes in the carpet through excessive dancing.

Got any more? Submissions in the comments below and I will share the best!



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