Revealing where everyday sayings come from

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THE origin of the phrase, ‘full monty’, was revealed by Trevor Impey, of Nottingham, in a talk on sayings to the April meeting of HUCKNALL MEN’S PROBUS CLUB at the Horse And Groom pub in Linby.

‘Full Monty’ was the title of a smash-hit 1997 British film about a male striptease act. But Trevor pointed out that far from suggesting nudity, the expression initially meant being fully dressed.

He told the members one explanation was that the term referred to a complete three-piece suit from well-known tailor Sir Montague Burton.

The phrase was also said to refer to Fieldmarshal Montgomery, who liked a full breakfast and also enjoyed wearing all his regalia and medals.

The speaker told the members he was fascinated by statistics and “literary things”. He said the history of different sayings offered a fascinating insight into the English language, which was the richest in the world. “People use these expressions without realising they are saying them,” he added.

Following the style of the TV quiz show, ‘Catchphrase’, Trevor showed members pictures representing such terms as ‘button your mouth’, ‘butterfingers’, ‘blind faith’ and ‘frog in the throat’.

He said many sayings came from nautical sources, including ‘above board’, ‘a clean bill of health’, ‘in the doldrums’, ‘no room to swing a cat’ and ‘getting somebody over a barrel’.

‘Son of a gun’ originated from the days when sailors’ wives were allowed on ships with restricted space and slept with their husbands between the guns on the deck — with the result that a boy was conceived there.

Trevor went on to say that Shakespeare created a lot of phrases now in everday use, including ‘all that glitters is not gold’, ‘brevity is the soul of wit’, ‘a fool’s paradise’, ‘in a pickle’ and ‘method in one’s madness’.

Another major source was the Bible, from which examples were ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’, ‘a bird in the hand’, ‘faith will move mountains’ and ‘a Fly in the ointment’.

However one Biblical saying was often misquoted, said the speaker. It was not money which was the root of all evil but the love of it.

Trevor added that beef, mutton and venison were derived from French words in the Middle Ages when the aristocracy just regarded animals as food.

While ‘cold shoulder’ dated from Georgian times and related to food no longer hot being served to guests who had outstayed their welcome.