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Explode, bone of contention, pig iron, brand new

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August 10th, 2016

Explode

When we hear the word “explode,” booming, fiery scenes come to mind. But explode actually originated with ancient Roman theater audiences. If a performer didn’t meet their expectations, they would hiss and shout the errant thespian off the stage. 

The Romans referred to this practice as explodere, which literally means “to explode.” And while this tradition itself continued long afterward, the term that referred to it has since become something quite different. 

In an age before gunpowder and other “explosives,” however, an explosion was an outburst.

“When I told my father that I had wrecked the family car, he exploded with anger.”

Bone of contention

By definition, a “bone of contention” is a touchy subject—a particular topic or issue that bothers a person or a group of people. In this case, the phrase originated with a concrete image, namely, two dogs fighting over a bone. 

Indeed, the source of contention here is the bone. Humans have since borrowed from this imagery to label our own quarrels and disagreements.

“Our political differences have always been a bone of contention between the two of us.”

Pig iron

There’s a certain amount of legend that surrounds the origin of this term. Pig iron is essentially a crude iron shaped in oblong bricks—a product of the initial smelting process that makes it. Here’s where the legend comes in. 

As the story goes, many years ago, an ironworker glanced at a row of the oblong, metallic bricks and noted how they resembled a litter of piglets nursing at their mother. The term “pig iron” naturally followed, and the rest is history.

“Once smelted, pig iron will be used to make steel.”

Brand new

Something that is brand new is hot off the presses, fresh from the factory, unblemished, unused, and the list goes on. It’s obvious why we use the word “new,” but what about “brand”?

Well, the term’s first usage dates back to the 1570s. A “brand" is a burning piece of wood. 

In this instance, it symbolizes heat and the newness associated with it. For example, bread is hot out of the oven, newly smelted pig iron is hot from the furnace, and a cattleman’s brand is hot on the bull’s hind. In other words, it’s fresh and, therefore, “brand new.” 

“There’s no smell like the inside of a brand new car.”

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