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Expressions

English

Expressions

Do you know the origin of the expressions you use?

A Deadline 

 The final date or time by which a task has to be completed.

Origin: In the American Civil War, the Andersonville prison camp was demarcated by a plain, painted, white line. It had no fence. Prisoners who dared to cross the line were shot dead by marksmen placed around the camp.

In later years, when journalists failed to file articles before the prescribed publication date, their editors would "kill" their stories because they had "passed the deadline".

A square meal

A good, solid dinner

Origin: On old British battleships, the sailors' breakfast and lunch would rarely be more than just bread and water. However, the last meal of each day would include meat, and was served on large wooden trays which sailors carried back to their posts. The trays were square in design to enable them to be stored away easily and securely, hence the phrase "a square meal".

Crocodile tears

False tears or insincere sorrow

Origin: After eating a meal, crocodiles shed excess salt from glands located beneath their eyes, giving the impression of tears. According to ancient Egyptian legend, after a crocodile had devoured its victim, it would immediately appear to start crying with remorse.

In time, any person who showed insincerity or false sorrow for their actions was said to be shedding "crocodile tears".

Hijack

To take control of a mode of transport, or to take over proceedings started by another party.

Origin: In Victorian England, highwaymen who stole coaches at musket point would traditionally use the words "Hold 'em high, Jack" to instruct everybody on the coach to hold their hands up in the air while they took control. Hence "hijack". 

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