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Where'd that phrase come from #38

Created date

November 4th, 2011

Upper crust

The origin of this phrase is likely rooted in the image of a baked loaf of bread and the portion to which you were entitled based on your social station. Some believe that in the kitchens of the old English manor houses, the golden, crispy top half was reserved for the gentry, leaving the burnt bottom for their servants. In time, this notion of the upper crust became symbolic not of the bread but of the aristocrats who ate it. When we speak of the upper crust today, we re referring to anyone of high social status. ' For years, Martha s Vineyard has been the stomping ground of America s upper crust.

(Funeral) Wake

The story behind this phrase is a small reminder of how fortunate we are to be alive in an age of modern science and medicine. As late as the first half of the 19thcentury, physicians still had a very limited understanding of the human body, disease, and infection. In fact, sometimes they couldn t even tell if a person was dead or just comatose, and as hard as it may be to believe, people were buried alive on occasion. ' Caution, therefore, compensated for what medicine lacked in knowledge. Before burying a loved one, family members would wait by the body for several days to see if the deceased awakened. Advances in medicine thankfully rendered the wake obsolete in a practical sense, but it endures today as a ceremonial tradition, its name reminiscent of its grim origins. We ll hold the wake on Saturday and Sunday. The funeral will be on Monday.

(In the) nick of time

This saying dates back to around the 16th century and means the same thing today as it did then. To arrive in the nick of time is to get somewhere at precisely the right moment or at the very last possible moment, which brings us to the phrase s key word: nick. To people in the 1500s, the image of a notch or nick embodied precision, most likely based on its associationwith measurement and keeping score.

I arrived at the station in the nick of time and managed to jump onboard the train as it was pulling away from the platform.

Keep your fingers crossed

All of us at some point have either crossed our fingers or suggested that someone else cross theirs for good luck. The practice started over 300 years ago when witches and creatures of the supernatural were very real in the minds of many. The sign of the cross was among the best protections against such evils; and if you needed it in a pinch but didn t have a crucifix handy, you could always cross your fingers. Today, the phrase and practice are synonymous with warding off bad fortune. Keep your fingers crossed that it doesn t rain during our vacation.