2018-08-01 / Other News

— Betcha didn’t know —

By Billy Fleming

I learned a long time ago there is an untold wealth of knowledge to be learned from your elders, if you will just listen to them. Actually, it wasn’t the knowledge, but the swichin’ that made it important to listen!

My brother Bob, who is my elder, and I began swapping nuggets of wisdom recently, and I learned the following...

A Shot of Whiskey

In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents, so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a “shot” of whiskey.

Whole Nine Yards

American fighter planes in WW2 had .50 caliber machine guns that were fed by a linked belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.

Buying the Farm

This is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm, so if you died, you “bought the farm” for your survivors.

Iron Clad Contract

This came about from the ironclad ships of the Civil War. It meant something so strong it could not be broken.

Passing the Buck/ The Buck Stops Here

Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker it was common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal, he would “pass the buck” to the next player. If that player accepted then “the buck stopped there.”

Riff Raff

The Mississippi River was the main way of traveling from north to south. Riverboats carried passengers and freight but they were expensive so most people used rafts. Everything had the right of way over rafts which were considered cheap. The steering oar on the rafts was called a “riff" and this transposed into riff-raff, meaning low class.

Cobweb

The Old English word for “spider” was “cob.”

Ship Staterooms

Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.

Showboat

These were floating theaters built on a barge that was pushed by a steamboat. These played small towns along the Mississippi River. Unlike the boat shown in the movie “Showboat” these did not have an engine. They were gaudy and attention grabbing which is why we say someone who is being the life of the party is “showboating.”

Over A Barrel

In the days before CPR a drowning victim would be placed face down over a barrel and the barrel would be rolled back and forth in an effort to empty the lungs of water. It was rarely effective. If you are over a barrel you are in deep trouble.

Barge In

Heavy freight was moved along the Mississippi in large barges pushed by steamboats. These were hard to control and would sometimes swing into piers or other boats. People would say they “barged in.”

Hog wash

Steamboats carried both people and animals. Since pigs smelled so bad they would be washed before being put on board. The mud and other filth that was washed off was considered useless “hog wash.”

Curfew

The word “curfew” comes from the French phrase “covre-feu,” which means “cover the fire.” It was used to describe the time of blowing out all lamps and candles. It was later adopted into Middle English as “curfeu,” which later became the modern “curfew.” In the early American colonies homes had no real fireplaces so a fire was built in the center of the room. In order to make sure a fire did not get out of control during the night it was required that, by an agreed upon time, all fires would be covered with a clay pot called-a “curfew.”

Hot Off the Press

As the paper goes through the rotary printing press friction causes it to heat up. Therefore, if you grab the paper right off the press it is hot. The expression means to get immediate information.

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