Posts Tagged ‘John Wilkes Booth’

Last week, I published 10 A words and am thinking I’ll just cruise through the alphabet.  So stick around and check back, hopefully I’ll get back to keeping this list thing going for Thursdays.  Pretty funny since it’s now 12:29am Sunday morning.

  1. Baggywrinkle  – a frayed out rope used on ship rigging to prevent chafing.
  2. Barmecidea false benefactor.
  3. Backberand – a thief caught with the goods.
  4. Bauchle –  an old shoe or one with worn heels.
  5. Bandoline – a smelly hair goo made from boiled quince pips.
  6. Bedswerver – an unfaithful spouse.
  7. Billingsgate –   coarse or abusive talk.
  8. Bonnyclabber – coagulated, sour milk.
  9. Bradyyarthria – slow talking.
  10. Breastsummer – a beam or girder set over an opening, as a doorway

Unusual? Definitely, Obscure? Of course, Preposterous? Ay-yeh

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I really like doing these posts;  in between blogs in this category when I hear a phrase that I grew up with but know that none of my kids or their friends would have a clue what it meant, I try to jot  it down.  Phrases come and go out of style and in this day and age when “sick”  means great and “down” means agreement, I’m just as clueless about today’s slang as the younger generation is about mine.

My readership is about 50/50 in terms of those of “a certain age” like me and a bunch  under the age of 40!  So tell me, have you heard these phrases lately and do you know what they mean or how they came to be?

Taking a shellacking – This is a slang phrase meaning you are being beaten down by someone.  In sports you hear that one team is taking a shellacking by the  opponents.  How did the noun, shellac, which means a thin protective coating come to mean beating someone is still somewhat obscure.  Word Detective suggests that shellac which is the last and final step in the finishing of furniture may imply that whoever is taking the shellacking is all finished.

Short Shrift – This phrase means something or someone is receiving careless attention, a quick but cursory view.  The origin of the phrase comes from the 16th Century when shrift  meant that brief time prior to a prisoner’s execution when he was granted the opportunity to confess to a priest.

Charley Horse – Commonly refers to muscle cramps in your thigh or calf muscles.  This condition is known throughout the world under names such as Donkey Bite, Thigh Hen, Horse’s Kiss.  There is some allusion to Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn, a major league pitcher who was known to suffer frequently from cramping muscles.

Church Key – Is actually a term for a bottle/can opener.  Originally a church key was a small metal device designed to open the caps (known as crown-corks) of beer bottles.  It resembled the shape of an ornate key to unlock the church doors.  Beer was marketed in cans around 1935 with flat tops and was sold often with a metal device that would pierce a triangular hole in the lid.  The term church key was simply transferred to the new opener.  

San Lorenzo church key

Church Key

Who Shot John – I, myself, never heard this term until I heard Judge Judy use it and it was used to describe superfluous details, aka bullshit!  However, this old term, probably southern, was/is commonly used to describe the way someone would look if he/she were disheveled, or had on too much make-up, or any instance where you  looked bad and not proper.   And again, also to imply that you didn’t want to hear any nonsense, just the truth as in “Don’t give me any who shot John“.  And as far as an origin, the best I can find is that it refers to John Wilkes Booth, but why???

bottle openers, crown corks

Beer Bottle Openers

can openers, beer openers, church keys

Early Beer Can Openers

can opener, bottle opener

Church Key Today

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