01 Apr As happy as Larry (wait, who’s Larry?)
Have you ever been curious as to why someone gave you short shrift, or why one man’s meat is another man’s poison? The English language is jam-packed with quirky adages so commonplace that we don’t even question their origin.
At Haiku Creative, we’ve been boning up on our adages so that we can pass muster at our next pub quiz. So without further ado, here are our top three phrases and their meaning.
- It’s raining cats and dogs
We are sure this would be painful for all involved. Luckily, our research tells us that cats and dogs have never actually fallen out of the sky and that this means to rain heavily. Phew.
While nobody seems to know the exact reason that this 17th century phrase came into being, it’s widely thought that it may be related to the fact that after heavy rain, dead animals were often washed up on the streets. Nice.
2. To spill the beans
Most of us would have been asked not to ‘spill the beans’ on a top secret piece of information. But why beans, and what’s wrong with spilling them?
Those with a weak stomach, stop reading now. In Judy Parkinson’s book, Spilling the beans on the cats pyjamas, she says that this phrase may have originated at the turn of the 20th century as an American euphemism for vomiting. Lovely jubbly.
The other theory is that it relates to a voting system used in Ancient Greece – black beans represented yes and white beans represented no. The result of a vote was revealed by spilling out the beans. If the collector spilled them by mistake, the ballot was stopped.
3. As happy as Larry
Why is Larry so happy, we wonder.
One explanation behind this phrase is that it is related to a 19th century boxer called Larry Foley, who never lost a fight. It’s thought that a newspaper coined the phrase ‘as happy as Larry’ and it stuck – remaining part of our language ever since.
When it comes to weird and wonderful phrases, the English language pips most others to the post. If you fancy swatting up on your sayings or finding out what’s so fascinating about the dog’s bollocks, you might want to have a gander here.