Where did that phrase come from?

If you’ve ever weighed the pros and cons of a situation, you’ve experienced a popular word phrase. The same can be said if you’ve ever bit off more than you could chew. While only a handful of phrases like this might come to mind, there are hundreds of them used commonly around the world each day.

So, if you’ve ever wondered why birds of a feather flock together, you’ve come to the right place. (Spoiler alert: It’s because birds stick with their own kind; it was first used in the mid-16th century and is “applied metaphorically to people who act in a similar way” according to Know Your Phrase.)

Common Phrases and Origins

Curiosity killed the cat – Cats are naturally curious creatures, and they will investigate a situation that interests them no matter how dangerous. This phrase seems to have come from an older expression: “Care killed the cat [which goes] back to at least the 16th century.” The curiosity part appeared in 1891 “in print from a book by James Allan Mair called Proverbs and Family Mottoes” (Know Your Phrase).

Hair of the dog – This comes from an old wives’ tale that suggests a person bitten by a rabid dog could be cured of rabies by consuming “a potion containing some of the dog’s hair” (Lexico). Today, it represents taking a drink of alcohol to cure a hangover. As Lexico explains, “no scientific evidence that the cure for either a hangover or rabies actually works.”

There’s no I in team Know Your Phrase reports that “this phrase is frequently used by coaches, players, and even newspaper writers to imply how victory is achieved not by any single individual, but through the players coordinating their efforts together.” Its earliest use was in the 1960s.

How do you like them apples? – No, this didn’t originate in the movie Good Will Hunting. According to the Early Sports and Pop Culture History Blog, it’s likely that this phrase dates back to WWI and “relates to the use of grenades and mortars against enemy positions; perhaps as a mocking, rhetorical question shouted after launching or tossing grenades at the enemy.”

Our Translators Understand What You Mean

Translation isn’t as simple as substituting one word for another. Translation requires contextual understanding and an appreciation of the culture. That’s why when one of our 2500 professional linguists comes across a phrase like one of those in this article, they know what to do with it.

Our translators take pride in not only knowing languages and culture, but also the industries in which they translate. Need a clinical study translated from Polish to Czech? We can do that. Looking to translate your latest sales proposal from Arabic to French? We can do that, too. From travel and tourism to the agrifood industry, you know that you’re getting someone who understands what you need from every angle.

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