Oct 26, 2019

English Phrase Origins

The first recorded use of 'by hook or by crook' is from the fourteenth century. In medieval times, the peasantry was not allowed to cut down trees, but they were permitted to gather firewood from loose or dead branches using a hook (bill-hook) or a crook (a staff with a curved end like those used by shepherds). Some peasants exceeded the strict use of these tools, and so the term has evolved into its current usage, meaning to achieve something by whatever means possible.

The word 'deadline' was originally used literally. During the Civil War, prisoners at one camp were confined to a pen and surrounded by a “deadline”; so called because if a prisoner crossed it, he would be shot dead. Now it is a synonym for “due date” or “time limit,”

Chicago’s nickname was coined by 19th-century journalists who were referring to the fact that its residents were “windbags” and “full of hot air.”

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