There are two possible origins for this phrase. The first one uses the term jig as a dance and basically means that the dance is over, and it s time to pay the piper. The second possible origin points to a change in the use of the term jig around the 1600s, when it referred more to a joke and a scheme than it did a dance.

At one time, the term woolgathering actually referred to an occupation. The job of a woolgatherer was quite simply to follow a herd of sheep as it moved around the countryside, picking up tufts of wool that had fallen out or snagged on bushes as the animals moved past. The job didn t require much concentration, and the woolgatherer, himself, wandered wherever the sheep decided to go.

Today, when we use the term scot-free, we usually refer to someone who has gotten away with something off the hook, if you will. They may have gotten off for a crime, or they avoided payment of some kind.

There are two possible origins for the phrase red cent, the first simply referring to the reddish hue of the copper used to mint the coin. The second possible meaning comes from the derogatory reference to Native Americans as Red Men, thus referring to the long-ago minted Indianhead penny.

While no one knows exactly where this phrase comes from, most people seem to think that its origin goes back to ancient times when people associated mythological spirits with trees. To tap the tree was to alert tree spirits to your presence, for example. More specifically, Irish tradition has it that you knock on the tree as way of expressing thanks to mythical creatures like leprechauns.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, a booby trap was not the sinister device that it is today. Instead, it was intended as a harmless practical joke consisting, for example, of a bucket of water carefully positioned above a partially opened door. But by the turn of the century--namely around World War I--booby traps referred to setups meant to kill rather than humiliate.

This phrase finds its origins with the ancient Romans. They observed that July and August the hottest months of the year happened to correspond with the appearance of Sirius the Dog Star. The Romans believed that this Dog Star was somehow responsible for the oppressive heat. Thus, we have the dog days of summer.

The origin of this phrase is rather straight forward and comes from the musician s world. Originally, it refers to playing compositions without the benefit of sheet music. Instead, the musician would simply use his/her ear to feel out the composition and follow the musical progressions.

This phrase is of British origin and began during World War I in reference to a soldier leaping from the safety of his trench and charging the enemy without cover. Facing lines of machine guns capable of filling the air with lead, this was often a suicidal decision--hence the phrase s modern reference to foolish or extreme behavior.

In the days of authors like William Shakespeare, when the meaning of words carried more poetic connotations, the term breast referred to one s heart or emotions. Simply put, to make a clean breast of things was to open up to another person and make known your inner-most feelings, thus giving one a clean slate--no secrets.

Centuries ago, when just about every farmer kept some sort of livestock both for sale and for their own sustenance, they identified ownership of each animal through one of two methods: branding or ear clipping. It's in the latter term that this phrase finds its origin.

Particularly for military units of the 19th century, a regiment s flag (or colors) was a symbol of pride and a sacred object to those who fought under it. Losing the flag to your enemy was a sign of defeat, but if you came off the battlefield with your colors still flying, you more than likely scored a victory.