Where does that phrase come from?

Today I discovered the origin of the phrase ‘rain cheque’, which I had never bothered to ponder before. Apparently a rain cheque was originally a voucher issued to baseball fans so they could view a later game if it rained. Hence the common phrase of postponement, ‘I’ll take a rain cheque’.

It set me thinking about other familiar phrases, many of which I use without even knowing their real meaning. In my investigations I came across the website www.phrases.org.uk, which is full of intriguing explanations for everyday sayings. For example, I had never understood the proverb ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss’ – apparently it means ‘Someone who does not settle in one place rarely prospers’. There’s also a lovely long list of all the phrases Shakespeare coined, such as ‘love is blind’, ‘more fool you’ and ‘truth will out’.

I also discovered a list of some famous last words. My favourites include the aptly surreal ‘I do not believe in my death’ by Salvador Dali, ‘I told you I was ill’ by Spike Milligan, and, although I’d never heard of him, General John Sedgwick’s unfortunately timed, ‘They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance’.

Sara Magness, Editorial Administrator

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