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Where'd that phrase come from #56

Created date

July 22nd, 2013

(Say) uncle!

At some point in time, you ve probably cried Uncle! Maybe you were in a fight, an argument that seemed without end, or perhaps under pressure to eat one more slice of pie at grandma s Thanksgiving feast. Whatever the circumstances, Uncle! has been a staple in the English language for years, but it has nothing to do with the English word uncle. In fact, its origins trace back to Ireland and the Gaelic word anacal, which means mercy. Eventually, we began pronouncing anacal uncle, and the rest is history. I have one more slice of pie left. Why don t you eat it? Uncle! I can t eat another bite.

Full of baloney

When we say that someone is full of baloney, it has nothing to do with the sandwich meat. Obviously, we re saying that a person doesn t know what he s talking about they re full of it. Once again, we owe this phrase to the vocabulary of old Ireland. In Gaelic, bealonna means foolish mouth, and this term over time evolved into the modern equivalent of baloney. He swore that he had seen a ghost in our basement, but there s no way. He s full of baloney.


Like so many other colonists during the American Revolution, those of Dutch descent in New York and Delaware hated the British. And they had a name for them that was based on this hatred: Jan Kaas, meaning John Cheese or simply dumb as a block of cheese. The British routinely mispronounced the derogatory term to sound like Yankees, and eventually, assigned it totheirenemies, the rebel colonists. By the Civil War, the term came to represent only those above the Mason-Dixon Line. Damn those Yankees! For four years, they waged a war of Northern aggression against the Southern states.

Ironclad (contract)

If you hear someone talking about an ironclad contract or plan, it s generally a good thing, meaning that it s fail-proof or, more specifically, impenetrable. The term itself comes from the legendary ironclad vessels of the American Civil War namely the Monitor and the Merrimack, which were the first armored ships of their kind.

Indeed, their armor was so thick, that for the majority of their first wartime engagement, cannon balls literally bounced off of them. This defensive image soon became popular with lawyers who wanted to represent their contracts in a similar light. There s no need to worry about the sale of your house. I m drawing up an ironclad contract.