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Where’d It Come From #27

Created date

November 23rd, 2010
Break the Ice In the days when American commerce depended largely on rivers, winter s ice caused a lot of problems. Frozen rivers could trap even the largest ships carrying goods into major cities, and people knew that business wouldn t get back to full throttle until the ice was broken. Today, the phrase refers to the act of getting comfortable with someone in order to get down to business. Whenever I meet with a potential investor, I always like to go out to lunch with him. It gives us an opportunity to break the ice. Lock, Stock, and Barrel In the old days, a rifle consisted of three separate parts. The lock, or firing mechanism; the stock, which provided aiming support when pressed against the marksman s shoulder; and the barrel, which guided the projectile as it left the weapon. These three parts, individually, were useless, but when put together, they formed a deadly piece of technology. In time, people used the phrase lock, stock, and barrel to mean getting the whole package. I bought the farm and all of its equipment, lock, stock, and barrel. Blackball (Blackballed) Going back as far as ancient Greece, beans were used to cast votes. Over the years, private clubs adopted the practice, using black and white balls to cast yea or nay votes for prospective members. If you supported a candidate, you cast a white ball. If you didn t support him, you cast a black one. Hence, to be blackballed is to be rejected or denied inclusion. Many of his friends have blackballed him since his recent arrest for embezzlement. Sandwich While this is not a phrase, per se, the term s origin is so interesting that I couldn t resist including it. In the mid 18th century, there lived a man named John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich. Montagu so loved to gamble that he refused to leave the card table, even to eat. He needed a way to consume his meal quickly without utensils and without soiling his hands, so he had servants put a slice of meat between two pieces of bread. Today, it s still one of the best meals around. At the Carnegie Deli in New York City, you can find just about every sandwich imaginable.