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Where'd that phrase come from? #39

Created date

December 12th, 2011

Polka dot

Like the Charleston in the 1920s or the Macarena in the 1990s, the polka was the big dance craze of the 1840s in England and America. And merchandisers, as true to form then as they are today, had dollar signs in their eyes. In fact, the polka was so popular that merely attaching its name to a product would boost its sales, no matter how remotely related it was to the dance. There were polka hats, polka curtains, and, of course, clothing adorned with polka dots. ' Thankfully, the polka hats and curtains fizzled. The dots, however, are still with us today. ' She wore an itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini.

Hear, hear!

You may have heard this phrase used in casual conversation if you were in the Titanic's first-class smoking room, a resounding profession of one steel magnate's approval of another's opinion. As formal as it sounds today, it was an informal contraction then, an abbreviation of Hear him, hear him! Members often shouted the expression during Parliamentary debates in Great Britain. I think the government should lower our taxes. Hear, hear!

Joined at the hip

During the 1830s, Eng and Chang Bunker were a spectacle to behold: conjoined twins who showman P.T. Barnum billed as the Siamese Twins. While the two were actually joined at the sternum, the image of conjoined twins stuck and eventually gave rise to joined at the hip, a phrase used to refer to two people who are always together. ' My best friend Joe and I did everything together growing up. We were practically joined at the hip. '

Go to the mattresses

You probably heard it in Francis Ford Coppola s 1972 classicThe Godfather. The hotheaded Sonny Corleone, in a fit of anger, orders his lieutenant Peter Clamenza to [G]ive em one message I want Sollozzo. If not, it s all-out war; we go to the mattresses. This phrase has been synonymous with gangland lingo since the movie s release, but its origins are actually rooted in centuries of Italian folk history. The story is that in the 1500s, wealthy Italian families would flee their homes and rent apartments in safer regions during times of war. In addition to solace, their disposable wealth would purchase the protection of mercenaries who, while guarding their family, would sleep in shifts on floor mattresses. ' In time, the Italians associated the image of a mattress with going to war, hence Sonny s usage of the term.