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Posts Tagged ‘JackSpeak’

Toe The Line

Posted by Admin on March 19, 2010

Toe the line, meaning to conform to rules and authority, is a term with disputed origins.

There is documentation to support the claim that it originates from a time when a ship’s company were mustered for victualling or pay.   Each sailor stepped forward to a line marked on the deck or along a crack in deck planking.

That being said, the longest-running use appears to be from the British House of Commons where sword-strapped members were directed to stand behind lines that were better than a sword’s length from their political rivals in order to restore and maintain decorum.

When heated exchanges broke out, the Speaker would direct members to “Toe the line!”  This call from the Speaker quelled growing conflicts and returned order to the House of Commons.

Posted in Idioms from the 18th Century | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Piping Hot

Posted by Admin on March 16, 2010

There are those who will say this phrase originates with the slang, known as Jack Speak, of the British Royal Navy known.   Supposedly, JackSpeak refers to the fact that if food is collected from the galley as soon as the appropriate ‘pipe’ sounds, then it is still hot when it’s served.

However, an early citation of the phrase is given in Philemon Holland’s 1601 translation of Pliny’s History of the world:  “Beans …  fried all whole as they be, and so cast piping hot into sharp vinegar.”

Even earlier than that the expression was first recorded in Chaucer’s 14th Century Canterbury Tales.  In the Miller’s Tale, Chaucer wrote:  “Wafers piping hot out of the gleed.”  The wafer is a kind of thin cake and gleed is the hot coals of a fire.

Posted in Idioms from the 14th Century | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »