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Origins of common secular phrases

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  • Origins of common secular phrases

    "Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater".

    In olden times, even before Wally, Hoot, TT, and I were born, bathwater was scarce. Generally the breadwinner got to go first - and last was the youngest child. When the bathwater was thrown out (if not recycled) I guess the really careless or the visually impaired needed to ensure the baby was not thrown out as well.

  • #2
    "Called on the carpet" (reprimanded at the office): In earlier years (as above) often only the boss's office had carpeting.


    Here's one with even earlier origins:

    "Flash in the pan" (remarkable but very brief) -hint: confiscation controversy

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    • #3
      Fair to Middling-above average

      This phrase is from jargon for grades of commercial cotton.In the 19th century,American cotton was graded by category ranging from fine to inferior.To say that cotton(or anything else) was fair to middling meant that it was good,but not the very best.The phrase dates to at least 1837.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Raphael View Post
        Here's one with even earlier origins:

        "Flash in the pan" (remarkable but very brief) -hint: confiscation controversy
        I thought that was an early photograpy reference.

        Flash powder 'flash' to take the picture. Meaning a brief time interval.
        The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
        Day to day pours forth speech, And night to night reveals knowledge.
        (Psa 19:1b-2)

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        • #5
          Your early camera reference (magnesium powder burned to illuminate, later replaced by "flash bulbs") is a good guess, and reminds me of "being in the limelight". Early stage productions had no electricity - burning quicklime at the foot of the stage provided "limelight".

          "Flash in the pan" refers to the little pan of powder in a flintlock rifle used during the Revolutionary War. Once ignited, the flash was intended to set off the main charge, sending the ball out of the barrel. If the main charge failed to explode, the rifleman had only a "flash in the pan".

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Raphael View Post
            Your early camera reference (magnesium powder burned to illuminate, later replaced by "flash bulbs") is a good guess, and reminds me of "being in the limelight". Early stage productions had no electricity - burning quicklime at the foot of the stage provided "limelight".

            "Flash in the pan" refers to the little pan of powder in a flintlock rifle used during the Revolutionary War. Once ignited, the flash was intended to set off the main charge, sending the ball out of the barrel. If the main charge failed to explode, the rifleman had only a "flash in the pan".
            interesting. i thought "flash in the pan" had something to do with panning for gold

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            • #7
              You're probably thinking of "not all that glitters is gold".

              The government would probably not regard flintlock muskets as rapid-fire semi-automatic or automatic weapons. Here's the steps to fire a single shot:

              1) Bite paper gunpowder cartridge; tear open with your teeth.
              2) Push pan cover (striker) forward; pour small amount into pan.
              3) Push striker back over the pan.
              4) Point muzzle straight upwards.
              5) Pour the remainder of the powder into the barrel.
              6) Insert lead ball.
              7) Wad up the cartridge paper and push wadding into the barrel.
              8) Remove ramrod from its tube below the barrel; ram wadding and ball tightly.
              9) Replace ramrod (unless British are charging).
              10) Cock hammer.
              11) Aim and fire; hope spark from flint does not create a "flash in the pan".

              Before I got a shot off, we could be over the fiscal cliff.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by icebear View Post
                interesting. i thought "flash in the pan" had something to do with panning for gold
                That is what I have researched.It is about the old California Gold Rush.

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                • #9
                  There's no doubt that a glint of something shiny in a sifting pan caused excitement but often turned out to be iron pyrite or some other "flash in the pan". However, the early musket-related origin of the phrase predated the gold rush.

                  Try this one: I wish Obama could be taken "down a peg". What were the original "pegs"?

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Raphael View Post
                    There's no doubt that a glint of something shiny in a sifting pan caused excitement but often turned out to be iron pyrite or some other "flash in the pan". However, the early musket-related origin of the phrase predated the gold rush.

                    Try this one: I wish Obama could be taken "down a peg". What were the original "pegs"?
                    My dad used to pan of gold.

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