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-   -   Meanings behind weird sayings (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=96135)

ejmeier 26 October 2017 07:14 PM

Meanings behind weird sayings
 
I've heard the saying "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" many times before, and I understand what the saying is trying to mean. But I never understood why do you want to attract flies? Why can't it be something other than flies?
What are some sayings that you think are kind of weird? Or never understood?

Avril 27 October 2017 02:54 AM

You want to catch the flies to get rid of them, I presume. But I put vinegar or wine in my fruit fly traps, not honey.

pinqy 27 October 2017 11:24 AM

My 8 year old daughter pointed out that you can catch even more flies with poop. Which, while true, kind of ruins the whole point of the saying.

katdixo 27 October 2017 01:33 PM

"Blood is thicker than water." Yes, I know it means that family loyalty is (or should be) stronger than non-family. But why is thickness considered desirable? And why is the bond between friends considered "water"?

Gutter Monkey 27 October 2017 01:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by katdixo (Post 1962639)
"Blood is thicker than water." Yes, I know it means that family loyalty is (or should be) stronger than non-family. But why is thickness considered desirable? And why is the bond between friends considered "water"?

'Thick' also means 'close' or 'closely associated', such as in the phrase 'As thick as thieves'.

Definition 6 here: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/thick

ChasFink 27 October 2017 01:44 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Avril (Post 1962609)
You want to catch the flies to get rid of them, I presume. But I put vinegar or wine in my fruit fly traps, not honey.

When I was a kid I had several books of the "Believe it or Not" variety (including some that were not official Believe it or Not publications). I remember one of them saying you really can catch more flies with vinegar than honey.

Alarm 27 October 2017 05:26 PM

A bilingual one....

In French, the common saw "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is "tu apprends pas a un vieux singe a faire des grimaces". You can't teach an old monkey to make new faces...

Why would you want/need to teach a monkey to make faces?
Also, a monkey? I was unaware that monkeys were common creatures in France!

GenYus234 27 October 2017 05:41 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by katdixo (Post 1962639)
And why is the bond between friends considered "water"?

According to Wikipedia, water in the phrase originally referred to water as meaning a great distance such as when someone had sailed oversea and would be effectively out of contact. The full text of the quoted eda is available here (about 2/5 down the page). Neither Google nor Babelfish can translate it, probably because it is 12th century German, and I don't speak German of any century so I can't verify that the interpretation is valid.

ejmeier 27 October 2017 06:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alarm (Post 1962663)
A bilingual one....

In French, the common saw "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is "tu apprends pas a un vieux singe a faire des grimaces". You can't teach an old monkey to make new faces...

Why would you want/need to teach a monkey to make faces?
Also, a monkey? I was unaware that monkeys were common creatures in France!

Speaking of monkeys, there is a Polish saying that is translated into English to say: “not my circus, not my monkey.” Meaning, don’t get into other people’s business that doesn’t concern you. I should learn from Thisbe saying but sometimes it is hard.

Richard W 28 October 2017 12:36 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Alarm (Post 1962663)
Also, a monkey? I was unaware that monkeys were common creatures in France!

Il y a plus des singes en France. Les singes sont dans les arbres...

(Sorry, something of an in-joke between me, a friend I fell out with more than ten years ago, and Eddy Izzard. It's OK if you don't get it. It's only funny to me, regardless of language. And my French is terrible anyway.)

This is another good question. I can't think of any strange expressions, though, by George. If only I were more on the ball. I'm as thick as two short planks at times.

thorny locust 28 October 2017 03:17 AM

My guess is that you're going to catch different kinds of flies with vinegar than with honey.

Lancastrian 29 October 2017 04:04 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by GenYus234 (Post 1962666)
According to Wikipedia, water in the phrase originally referred to water as meaning a great distance such as when someone had sailed oversea and would be effectively out of contact. The full text of the quoted eda is available here (about 2/5 down the page). Neither Google nor Babelfish can translate it, probably because it is 12th century German, and I don't speak German of any century so I can't verify that the interpretation is valid.

I always thought it was actually a shortening of "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb." Which is actually about how the friends you choose are more important than those you're related to. The shortening reverses the original meaning.

ganzfeld 30 October 2017 03:01 AM

The linked article mentions that there isn't any historical basis for that claim but I think it would be more relevant to say the "covenant" versions don't even appear until the late 20th century. It seems if that were the roots then someone would have mentioned it in the first 600+ years the saying's been around. :)

Brad from Georgia 30 October 2017 06:09 PM

"If you want to make a possum grin, never pull his tail." My drunk uncle said that one a lot.

DawnStorm 01 November 2017 12:20 PM

Ugly as a mud fence. My parents said that a lot. I've never seen a mud fence and can't imagine anyone using mud to build a fence.

thorny locust 01 November 2017 01:01 PM

A fence meant to hold back mud from sliding downhill, maybe?

I don't know why that would be uglier than any other fence, however -- except maybe that it would presumably be muddy, at least on the uphill side.

I wonder whether 'mud' isn't the original word in there; but I'm having trouble thinking of what it might have been a misunderstanding or mis-speaking of. -- Mad fence maybe, as in spite fence? (one put up between neighbors who are mad at each other, and likely to be designed by the one who puts it up so as to be ugly on the side facing the one that they're mad at.)

-- Brad, I would think that any expression a possum produced that looked like a grin wouldn't mean what a human smile usually does, but would just be a grimace baring teeth. And pulling one's tail might, I suppose, actually produce such an expression. So maybe the drunk uncle had it backwards.

Richard W 01 November 2017 01:45 PM

I'm reading A Harlot High and Low by Balzac (in translation) and it's good for odd phrases that were apparently around in early-19th century France. I mentioned "as happy as a Dutchman with a tulip like nobody else's", which refers back to tulip-mania as in this thread.

Another is to do with seamstresses and bags of charcoal. I don't know whether this was really a phrase in use, or whether it's just something that one of the characters says in a letter (which refers back to an earlier incident in the book) but "like a seamstress with a bag of charcoal" could have meant "suicidal".

Apparently a common method of suicide in those days was to seal up all the gaps around doors and windows in your room, put a bag of charcoal on the fire, put your head near the grate and die of carbon monoxide poisoning. The seamstress part would be because seamstresses were often actually covers for prostitutes or "fallen women", and so prone to suicide. But again, I'm not sure whether this was really a phrase or whether it just refers back to the character writing the letter, who attempted suicide in this way earlier in the book while working as a seamstress (after escaping her former life as a child prostitute / courtesan).

ganzfeld 01 November 2017 02:27 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by DawnStorm (Post 1962969)
I've never seen a mud fence and can't imagine anyone using mud to build a fence.

The modern word for mud as a building material is adobe. So it started as something like "plain as a mud fence" which used to be relatively common and, uh, plain.

DawnStorm 01 November 2017 03:19 PM

That makes sense! That and ugly as an adobe fence! sounds awkward.

AliBaba 01 November 2017 05:39 PM

So, not sure if these fit, but two of my favorites, no memory of where I heard the explanation.
When people say someone is the spit'n image of someone else, it's not a contraction of spitting image as(as most people seem to think) but rather of 'spirit and image' which actually makes sense.

And when someone says to 'mind your Ps and Qs, that supposedly comes from "pints and quarts", in old pubs, where they would make marks for every pint or quart you ordered. If you let yourself become inebriated and didn't pay careful attention, they could easily charge you for more ale than you had actually consumed. That one sounds a bit too pat to me, but may still be true.


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