Mysteries of the English Language: Idioms

Mysteries of the English Language: Idioms explains the origins of a couple of common phrases and suggests where more information on the subject can be found.

I started out today thinking I’d blog about the history of the expression “blow your own horn” because it’s something that we, as writers, need to do to promote our blogs and books.

I think we all know what is implied by the phrase. When I dug into the origin of the phrase, however, I was surprised to learn that in Middle Ages (500 – 1500 AD) you could employ heralds who would blow their trumpets and with great fanfare announce your lineage and deeds to the crowds at tournaments. If you didn’t have a herald, or you didn’t wait for the herald to make this announcement for you, then you would be publicly announcing yourself, and thereby “blowing your own horn.”

Here’s the origin of another phrase that you might find interesting. We always used to say to our kids when we tucked them in at night, “Nighty, night. Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite.” Now, thanks to a resurgence of the little pesky things, we all understand what bedbugs are since they’ve made headlines in recent years, but do you know what “sleep tight” means?

Before box springs, bed frames used to have a mesh of ropes beneath the mattresses to support them. If the ropes were taunt, in other words “tight,” the mattress was more comfortable and you were likely to sleep better.

For More Information

There are many, many phrases like this in the English language that we use without thought of where, why or when they originated. If you’d like to learn more, check out these sites:

Photo credit: Pixabay