Out on a limb


out on a limbIt’s another installment of that highly educational and immensely entertaining (or is that verse vice-a?) feature where you learn just where that phrase or word came from.

Sit back (you shouldn’t be so close to the screen anyway) and feel the knowledge just ooze into you…

trench coatBefore they were fashionable, they were functional.

Trench Coat – While trench coats are often worn as raincoats these days, there are marked differences between a trench coat and the generally drab, featureless raincoat.  A trench coat usually sports epaulets (those straps on the shoulders), a cowl of fabric protecting the upper torso and a belt (which should be cinched, never buckled).

It’s more than a little ironic that one of the most fashionable and durable garments of the last century should be a relic of one of its most brutal and pointless conflicts, the First World War.  The last three years of the war were fought almost entirely as trench warfare, with both the German and Allied forces occupying labyrinths of deep ditches separated by barren stretches of “no man’s land”.  Life in the cold, wet trenches was miserable beyond belief and soldiers not felled by the enemy were likely to contract “trench fever” (a virulent flu-like disease), “trench mouth” (severe gingivitis) or “trench foot” (frostbite).  So we can only imagine the envy of the average British soldier felt when the British Army issued its officers (and only its officers) the newly invented, warm and waterproof “trench coat”.

The trench coat survived the war and civilian versions quickly became immensely popular in Europe and, by the 1930’s, in the U.S.


bellTell me this wouldn’t drive you nuts if it went off every time you remembered something!

Rings a bell – a common term about something that sounds familiar, it relates to the importance of bells in the past.  Bells, such as the type used in churches, are large and loud.  Their sound can be heard from a great distance.  Bells sound a single, clear note so their sound is distinctive and not easily confused.

Before electric sirens and amplification systems, bells were a valuable means of signaling people and alerting them of important events.  Further, accurate timepieces were not available as they are today.  Bells were used to signal people of the start of events such as a church session, the start of school or a celebration.  The bells acted as a reminder of the start of the event for people who had an out of synch timepiece (or none at all).  In many cases, it let people know of an important meeting or situation that they had previously forgotten or lost track of.


soup to nutsUm…I think I’ll go with the salad.

Soup to nuts – Meaning everything from beginning to end, it probably takes its meaning from the fact that for centuries, any foods served at the beginning or end of a meal stood for the entire thing:  the start and finish and everything in between.

The expression originated as “from eggs to apples” and “from pottage to cheese”.  Reflecting the cultural differences in meals, the expression changed again in the middle of the 20th century in the United States into “from soup to nuts”.  At many meals, soup was often the first course and a dessert with nuts was often the last.

Leave a Reply

  • (will not be published)