Tuesday, March 05, 2013


My mother often used expressions, I thought I understood, but probably didn't. I'm not sure my mother always understood them either, but it did make for a colourful use of language and I'm all for adding colour (and salt) to anything.

One expression in particular always puzzled me - "hell bent for leather." I decided that since, I was at a loose end yesterday, I would look it up. As a result, I happened to come across this unique site that's been on-line since 1995 - The Word Detective. I have linked to their explanation of the phrase, which is very humorous, as well as being, informative - I like being entertained!!

Somehow, I always thought that the phrase had something to do with punishing an unruly child - as in having the imp bend over to receive the slap of a leather strap for causing trouble. Well, I was wrong. It's a riding term that means riding at "break-neck" speed to get things done! The leather being the horse's whip.

You can also check out the origin of words such as "loo"and "mojo," however, I had to go to another site to find the origin of "lickety-split" This site, though informative, was not nearly as funny.

"Me old China"

In his description of the origin of the word "loo," The Word Detective touches on some cockney phrases that originated because of the Cocknies' penchant for rhyme. He mentions phrases such as, "Me old china," - my old friend, from "Me old china plate - me mate." (I have written about this before) and "me flute" for suit from "me old whistle and flute - me suit." Here's a site with more phrases than you'll ever remember - Hints and Things.

One can only speculate that since these cockney phrases were spoken by people who lived (actually were born) in inner city London - within the sound of the bells of Mary Le Bow - they concocted this elaborate language, not only as a way of making themselves special and a little mysterious, but also as a way of adding colour and interest to what must have been a harsh existence.

Must hit the "frog and toad" - have a colourful day!!


  1. Knock on wood! Those are great expressions :-)

  2. What a fun thing to do, to look up the history and meaning behind all those old cliches. There are so many of them that we use automatically, that it would be fun to actually know their origins. Now I'd better go hit the road.

  3. Fun post AND informative... Great site to explore.