Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another Fun List- Animals: Groups and Phrases

Another pair of lists that are not, by any stretch of the imagination, exhaustive. We will begin with a exotic animal pack names.

A CRASH of Rhinos


A PITYING of Turtledoves

A RAFTER of Turkeys

A SOUNDER of Boars

A SMACK of Jellyfish

A TOWER of Giraffes


A RUMBA of Rattlesnakes

A BLOAT of Hippos

Now the origins of some popular phrases involving animals. 

Scapegoat - Nowadays this term refers to someone set up to take the blame but that is not what it originally meant. This one is the result of a case of a bad translation from Hebrew to English. Back in Biblical times, the Hebrew priests would lead two goats into the temple - The Lord's Goat and the Goat of Azazel. Unfortunately for The Lord's Goat, it was sacrificed. The Azazel Goat would live and be turned loose into the desert and take with it the sins of the people. Azazel literally meant The Goat of Escape or the goat who departs. English translators two thousand years later would translate this goat as the one who was sacrificed.

Pull the Wool Over Their Eyes - This one - a phrase meaning to deceive - dates back to when wearing a woolen wig of hair was all the rage. When going out in polite society, gentlemen donned these woolen wigs and thus looked ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, these wigs provided thieves with a means of distracting their victims. They would yank the wig over their victims eyes and steal their purse.

Red Herring - As a mystery writer, I'm familiar with this phrase meaning a character in a story who is set up to look guilty but usually isn't. This one goes back to the time when English lords would hunt on their own private lands. They would usually bring along a pack of hounds who would scent out the game before and after it had been shot. Poachers, who wanted to pilfer the wounded game would drag a clutch of rotten (or red as it looked when it was turning bad) herring across the path of the dogs and lead them away from the game. The dogs would follow this false trail and the poachers would get the meat. This worked because rotten fish, particularly herring, is how the dogs were trained to track in the first place.

Let the Cat out of Bag - Used when something has been revealed, this one is actually related to another animal phrase 'Never buy a pig in a poke', a poke being a bag used at animal and vegetable markets. Devious farmers would switch out customers suckling pigs for cats. I would imagine the unwary customer would be unhappy thinking they bought a roasting pig and ended up with a dead cat.

Hair of the dog - Usually refers to a dubious cure for a hangover where the sufferer drinks some more of the same liquor that gave them the hangover. This one goes back to the Middle Ages. In the 16th century it was believed that the best way to treat an injury or illness was with a relic of whatever caused the malady. So, if a rabid dog bit you the doctor would obtain some hair from the dog and sew it under the wound, thus, 'the hair of the dog' would be your remedy.

If you have any other unusual pack names or phrase origins, let me know. 

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