Phrases and Their Origins

Good eventide to you!

Today TMC is starting a new blog entitled Phrase and Their Origins.   Those everyday “the writing is on the wall” kind of things we say without thinking twice about it.  We know the meaning but do we know the phrase’s origin?

You may be amazed to learn just how many phrases we use today came from the Bible or from our favorite time period, the Middle Ages.  For example, do you know where “giving someone the finger” comes from?  A hint, think Agincourt in 1415 and the longbow.   How about “Eat, drink and be merry”?  Think the Bible.  Or, “to free lance”?  Think medieval knights who became mercenary soldiers.

Let’s begin with a phrase whose origin surprised me.  It’s “To play the devil’s advocate”.  Its origin is the Roman Catholic Church.  A canon lawyer in the church would be appointed to argue against the canonization or beatification of a person.  Appointed and play are the key words here as the “appointed person” didn’t need to be against the canonization he only needed to “play a role”.  His role was to argue simply for the sake of argument and in so doing all sides could be discussed and it could be determined if the person being presented for sainthood was truly worthy.  Pope Sixtus V established this office in 1587 and it remained until 1983 when Pope John Paul II eliminated it.  

Each Thursday I will choose a particular phrase, give a wee bit of its history and its date of origin and then invite your comments.   

 “And thereby hangs a tale”
for all to read and learn of the origin of their favorite phrases.

Enjoy! from your Faithful Scribe, Linda
www.TheMedievalChronicle.com

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