In the days before Jeeps and tanks, military forces depended greatly on horses, not only for their cavalry units but for the commanding officers who needed to move quickly about the ranks giving orders. Particularly in the middle ages, many of these commanding officers were nobles, and their mounts, very expensive riding horses that were taller and stronger than most others.

Pushing the envelope actually comes from a mathematical concept known as the flight envelope, which involves combinations of speed, altitude, stress, and range--all important factors in determining an aircraft s capabilities. When test pilots push the envelope, they are taking the aircraft up to and, perhaps even, beyond its limits.

Quite simply, the phrase below the belt started out as a formal rule in early pugilism (around the mid 18th century). The British boxer Jack Broughton drafted a list of rules that, together, made it clear that no fighter should strike his opponent anywhere below the waist. In time, these provisions fell under the descriptor below the belt.

A nautical term that refers to the action of quickly pulling in a rope, which involves the steady motion of one hand reaching over the other to take hold of a new length. Over time, the term has come to refer to a steady flow of anything, particularly money. "Business is good. We're making money hand over fist."

Particularly with the passage of the latest stimulus bill, there s been a lot of talk about pork amongst political commentators. While the term today refers to the funding of a state-level project through a federal bill as a way of garnering the votes of those legislators who otherwise would have opposed the law, its origin connotes a dark period in American history.

This phrase comes from the poem "The Kicker" by 19th-century humorist Josh Billings (in the 1800s, kicker was another word for complainer). Billings wrote: "I hate to be a kicker, I always long for peace, But the wheel that does the squeaking, Is the one that gets the grease." In other words, you'll get what you want if you make a fuss.

It was common practice among early 17th-century American settlers to designate property borders using pike-like strips of wood, or stakes. These staked borders also served as fortifications against encroaching Native Americans, who settlers constantly feared.

Originally, this phrase referred to a ship that had run aground raising the vessel high enough out of water to strand it at least until high tide. Today, we use the phrase in reference to any instance where one person leaves another person stranded. "He left me high and dry at the airport this afternoon when he failed to pick me up."

This saying, like so many others, derives its name from the world's long sea-faring tradition.

This phrase finds its origins in French author Victor Hugo's historical novel Ninety Three, in which he describes a dangerous moment where a deckhand has to subdue a loose cannon in the midst of a storm. Since the book's publication in 1874, the phrase has come to refer to a person whose behavior can be reckless or out of control. "I won't work with him.