Why Do We Say Stuff Like That?
How Common Expressions Arose
According the phrases.org.uk, most common expressions arose from common circumstances that are sometimes no longer common.
"Here comes the bigwig."
The Bourbon kings of France, and in particular Louis XIII (1601 - 1643) were prematurely bald. It was Louis who started wearing wigs and as the king does, so his courtiers. As the custom went on, wigs became larger and larger until they sometimes required a scaffold to erect on the head of the victim. Some wigs housed birds. Eventually, the fashion became so extreme that it became unfashionable. But in England, British barristers still wear wigs, making the phrase both ancient and contemporary.
"Go to pot"
One of the earliest references was from 1682 when a writer said a man who was hanged went to pot. The idea being that it was a one-way trip for a chicken or another animal bound for the cooking pot.
"She's a straight laced woman."
In those days, ladies wore corsets laced up in the front. A proper and dignified woman wore a tightly tied lace.
Financial advisor Jane Bryant Quinn says a mortgage should be paid off with current income, not with cash from an IRA or 401(k). Additionally, retirement accounts provide liquidity and are protected from creditors.
"Mind your Ps and Qs."
At taverns, people drank from pint or quart containers. The bar maid's job was to remember who was drinking what. She minded her Ps and Qs.
Local opinion: "gossip."
Early politicians had no radios or TVs to tell them what people thought. They sent their assistants to taverns where they were told to "go sip some ale" and listen to conversations. Eventually, the words "go and sip" morphed into gossip.
"Not playing with a full deck."
In those days, there was a tax on decks of playing cards that included the ace of spades. To avoid the tax, people would buy only 51 cards. They were thought to be dumb because they weren't "playing with a full deck."