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Forward Momentum

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Hey, Runners!

Old familiar sayings that are really entrenched in our everyday speech are more specifically referred to as idioms or adages. There’s such an abundance of these old phrases and sayings which are so woven into our everyday speech that, often enough, we don’t even know it when we’re using them!

Today we’re featuring the saying ‘Hit the Ground Running’. When we say that somebody ‘hit the ground running,’ what we mean is that they are moving at full speed from the get-go—that they began a new job with a great amount of forward momentum.

This saying paints the picture of somebody jumping from a moving locomotive and continuing on once they hit the ground without any pause in between. ‘Hit the Ground Running’ was a phrase that was being used in a literal sense by the late 1800s.

Nobody can be sure exactly where this phrase originated from. Some people say it came from riders of the Pony Express avoiding delay when they changed mounts. Others say it was stowaways jumping from freight trains. And, yet, some contend that it may come from troops who had been dropped into a combat zone (like the World War II D-Day operation).

Whether it was the origin of the phrase or not, the D-Day military operation did a wonder for the popularity of the phrase ‘Hit the Ground Running’. The phrase suddenly spread like wildfire as ‘Hit the Ground Running’ essentially became synonymous with D-Day. It was just another 25 years on that the phrase had taken on its more current implication of a figurative meaning.

This is our first Adage Origin Blog post for the year. Come on back next month when we return to continue our Blog series of Adage Origins. As always, thanks for reading, Folks!


- John

A Sure Thing

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Hey, Bags and Girls!

As we venture into the holiday season, it’s common for kids’ imaginations to drift to what could be waiting for them inside a particular bag. You know which bag I mean…the large, brown one that travels across the world in a single night on a magical, flying sleigh. Yeah! That one. Is that one gift that you have your heart set on sitting inside? Well, if you’ve behaved well throughout the year, it’s probably safe to say you’ve got it in the bag.

There are countless turns of phrases and old sayings for us to look into to find out why we say things like ‘Dead as a Doornail’ and ‘Birds of a Feather Flock Together’. These sayings are deeply embedded into our everyday speech; you probably don’t even know it when you’re using one. Today let’s take a look at the phrase ‘In the Bag’.

This phrase is used in Australia to mean the opposite of how we came to use it in America. When they use it down under, they mean to have essentially lost a game. If your favorite sports team was down by four touchdowns to begin the fourth quarter, you would say that your team was ‘In the Bag’.

In America, however, if you’ve got something ‘In the Bag’, then you mean to say that something is as good as in your hands. The American version came about because of a superstitious tradition of the New York Giants baseball team. As described in an Ohio newspaper ‘The Mansfield News’ from 1920 called the team’s superstitious tradition “…a belief that if the [ball] bag is carried off the field at [the ninth possession] of the game with the Giants in the lead the game is in the bag and cannot be lost."

After 26 victories in a row, you would believe in the tradition too! I would wish you luck in any upcoming challenges you’ll be facing, but I’m sure you have it all in the bag. We’ll catch you in the new year for our next Adage Origin. And, as always, thanks for reading, Folks!


- John

....Line Please....

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Hey, Improvisers!

Strap in for another investigation of those old sayings that folks around particular regions of the country as well as the world have been using for so long that they’ve forgotten where the phrase originated from in the first place. Our language is peppered with these sayings and old adages. Today, let’s hold up our magnifying glass to the phrase “Off the Cuff” to see what it means and where it comes from.

If somebody is asking for your ideas in the moment, without any time to prepare, you might say the ideas you deliver are all you could come up with off the cuff. This phrase implies that your response is spontaneous and unrehearsed.

Off the cuff got its start on the stage. Performers from the 1800s would get inventive about keeping a sort of cheat sheet on their person to save them in case they forgot their lines during the performance. Lots of actors resorted to writing their lines right on their shirt cuffs. The audience wouldn’t be able to see, yet it was a very visible spot for the actors to read their notes.

Actors were likely using ‘Off the Cuff’ as a familiar phrase long before it showed up in print in 1936. In the same year, the famous director Charlie Chaplin made a film called ‘Modern Times’ in which a character writes lyrics on his shirt cuffs. When he gets on the stage, however, his shirt cuffs tear and fly off so he must improvise his performance—it’s a pretty funny scene.

Along with the phrase showing up in print in the same year, this scene from Chaplin’s film brought the phrase from the theater department to the rest of the world. The phrase was found to be handy in applications all across the board and has only grown in popularity.

Check back in when we return for another Adage Origin Blog post in December when we’ll take a look at the phrase ‘In the Bag’. As always, thanks for reading!


- John

And Ready for Love...

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Hey, Camp Folks!

There are so many common phrases and expressions that have been so sewn into the fabric of our everyday speech that we use them without even realizing it. Some can sound a bit bizarre if you don’t know the origin of the phrase. For example, ‘Dead as a Doornail’ originated literally from large doornails that have been clinched and thus rendered useless. You can read more about that right here.

For today’s post, however, let’s take a look at the phrase ‘Fit as a Fiddle’. When someone is looking to be the picture of health, you could say that they’re feeling fit as a fiddle. Fit as in fitness.

However, the word ‘fit’ didn’t initially refer to physical fitness as it is so often used nowadays. It used to simply mean seemly or suitable. People would use it like this: “Such a beautiful day is fit for a stroll outside.”

So where’s the fiddle come in? The fiddle (also known as a violin) requires rather fine tuning in order to play the intricate melodies expected of them in the country and western/bluegrass styles.

Records from the year 1603 show the phrase originally coined was actually ‘Fine as a Fiddle’ or ‘Good as a Fiddle’. Once somebody stumbled upon ‘Fit as a Fiddle’, though, it stuck better than the rest—likely because of the alliteration with the repeating F’s. ‘Fine as a Fiddle’ has alliteration with the F’s too, but the next letter, the I, is pronounced differently in ‘fine’ as it is in ‘fiddle’ while ‘fit’ and ‘fiddle’ have the I pronounced the same way, sort of creating a half-rhyme.

Be sure to use this when you someone is feeling better after being sick or just in a generally chipper mood! Tune in next month when we’ll be studying the term ‘Off the Cuff’. Until then, keep up with your workout routine to stay fit. And, as always, thanks for reading. 


- John

What's Soap with You?

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Hey, Camp Folks! 

Thanks for joining us once again for today’s post in which we’ll discover another Adage Origin where I deep dive all those popular phrases and sayings that everyone knows, but seldom understand why they mean what they mean. They’re so built in to our language that we may not even realize we’re using them. Today’s term we’re looking at is ‘Soap Opera’. 

Soap Opera—a decidedly odd phrase—refers to a long-running radio or television serial which is often regarded as melodramas with ensemble casts. It’s an odd phrase, because it doesn’t seem to describe whatsoever what it’s referring to. 

Soap Opera may sound like a fitting name, but that’s likely just because we’re so used to it by now that we don’t really question its strangeness. It’s not like these hyper-serialized programs are ever about soap, right? And where does the opera come into play? 

For now, let’s set the soap part aside and just concentrate on the opera part. The word opera comes from the Latin ‘opus’ which simply means work or composition. Italian operas, notorious for being a big, loud production lent the term to be applied to other genres as something of an insult. 

No Horsin’ Around
Preceding Soap Operas were Horse Operas. A Horse Opera was referring to the vintage Western programs like ‘Red Ryder’ and ‘The Lone Ranger’. The term opera was initially intended as a putdown of the clichéd and corny plot devices of serial Westerns, however the term was happily accepted by fans of the genre. 

Based in Space
Before Soap Operas, there were Horse Operas. After Soap Operas, there were Space Operas. ‘Star Wars’ being a prime example, was eventually categorized as a Space Opera with a long, serialized plot set, of course, in the distant reaches of outer space with lots of effects and fanfare. 

The Scope of Soap
So where does soap come into the picture? Well, back when the first Soap Operas premiered, it was revolutionary to daytime television. Daytime advertisements would frequently try selling soap during the commercials that played throughout early Soap Operas. 

Who knew the term Soap Opera spawned a variation for its science fiction cousin and that Soap Opera itself was already a variation from Horse Opera?! Interesting stuff! A strange term, nevertheless, it seems the phrase isn’t going anywhere. And who knows what other opera variations will come about in times to come. As always, thanks for reading Camp Fans. Happy Camping! 


- John