Sayings with historical origins

betgo

Ad Honorem
Jul 2011
6,329
10 Common Sayings With Historical Origins - History Lists

Also, "sold down the river", referred to selling slaves to the harsh deep south plantations were slave prices were higher.

"Beyond the pale" is outside the area of direct English control in medieval times. Much of the rest was originally Norman earldoms under the English crown. The rest was called "wild Ireland", hence "wild Irish".

This may be sort of English centric on this board. I would be interested in other similar phrases.
 
May 2009
706
New Jersey
"We have crossed the Rubicon" A saying that means we have gone to far to turn back. It has its origins with Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon river with his army when returning to Rome. Roman generals were not allowed to cross pass that point with their armies with them.
 
Aug 2012
1,554
A typical rhyme to remember the colour spectrum is Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.
A reference to the Wars of the Roses, wherein Richard of York did indeed give battle in vain and wound up with his head on a stick.
 

Chlodio

Forum Staff
Aug 2016
4,461
Dispargum
"We have crossed the Rubicon" A saying that means we have gone to far to turn back. It has its origins with Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon river with his army when returning to Rome. Roman generals were not allowed to cross pass that point with their armies with them.
Also, "The die is cast" meaning pretty much the same thing - 'I have gone beyond the point where I can still influence events. I am at the mercy of forces already in play.'



Pyrrhic victory - from the time King Pyrrhus of Greece defeated the Romans but in the process sufferred so many casualties that afterwards he supposedly said, "One more victory like this will finish me."
 

Lucius

Forum Staff
Jan 2007
16,363
Nebraska
To "meet one's Waterloo" is a thing.

Also, if one says he is going to do something "like Sherman marched through Georgia" it means he will persevere and win, come hell or high water and without regard to things getting broken.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,933
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
"We have crossed the Rubicon" A saying that means we have gone to far to turn back. It has its origins with Julius Caesar when he crossed the Rubicon river with his army when returning to Rome. Roman generals were not allowed to cross pass that point with their armies with them.
That is not totally true. There as no law that said "Generals don't cross the River Rubicon with your armies, or you'll be guilty of treason."

Instead it was illegal for generals to cross from their provinces where they command into Italy with their armies.

Caesar was the governor of Cisalpine Gaul and Transalpine Gaul and the River Rubicon was part of the border between Cisalpine Gaul and Italy. Cisalpine Gaul was made part of Italy a few years later.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,933
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Also, "The die is cast" meaning pretty much the same thing - 'I have gone beyond the point where I can still influence events. I am at the mercy of forces already in play.'
No it means that there is no turning back and going forward for better or worse is the only course left. It doesn't mean that the end result is already determined as in a literal die cast. It is true that Caesar didn't know how things would turn out but he still had the ability to influence events, being a great general and politician.

Cesar didn't just sit back and see what happened as a result of Crossing the Rubicon but tried as hard and as smart as he could to win. Caesar wasn't certain to win but Caesar was not at the mercy of circumstances - if circumstances was one of Caesar's enemies circumstances wound up being at Caesar's mercy.
 
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Jun 2015
579
Camelot
Better is the enemy of good enough

Better to live a day as a lion than a thousand years as a sheep
 

sculptingman

Ad Honorem
Oct 2009
3,614
San Diego
I don't know how 'historical' these are- other than the fact that they hark back to early sculptor and stonemasons guilds. I mean- there is no ONE event they can be traced to...

but here goes:


The Ring of Truth
and a Sound Investment .

Its an old stone cutters and sculptor's term.

If you're going to carve a huge and expensive block of marble into a lithe figure... the worst thing that can happen is for you to get most of the rock carved away and discover, too late, that there is an internal crack or flaw that was not visible on the exterior of the stone. That's a lot of money and time lost.
So to ascertain the quality of the stone, a sculptor would " Sound" the stone. That is- take a heavy mawl and strike the stone as hard as he could.
A stone that has an internal flaw will return a dull thud- but a stone without flaw internally will RING like a bell.

Such a stone was referred to as Sound or that it Rings True. So something that Rings True is something you do not have direct knowledge of being correct ( you can only prove the stone flawless by cutting into it... but something that gives every indication of being so.
And So a patron spending money on such a Stone was a Sound investment.
And A Building built on a Sound foundation meant that the masons had Sounded every stone in the foundation and every one rang true.



Another idiom from the history of sculpture and masons professions is the "Rule of Thumb".

No- its not the size stick you can beat your wife with.

A Rule of Thumb is a reliable and rough approximation based upon experience.
It goes back to the fact that when you are up on a scaffold to take a measurement, and drop your Ruler, you REALLY don't want to have to climb all the way down and then all the way back up.

It turns out that early workmen realized that an Adult Man's thumb is almost exactly one inch wide. With a little practice, any man can learn just how hard to press his thumb to make it pretty exactly an inch wide.

So you can fairly accurately measure things simply by placing one thumb next to the other leapfrog style and counting off the "inches"
Your THUMB is a reliable RULER when a ruler isn't to hand. Hence the Rule of Thumb.