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A Sock in What?

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Hey, Camp Fans!

There’s such an abundance of phrases and old sayings that are so woven into our everyday speech that, often enough, we won’t even realize it when we’re using them. Old familiar sayings that are really entrenched in our are more specifically referred to as idioms or adages. And today we’re featuring the saying ‘Put a Sock in it’. When we tell someone to put a sock in it, what we mean to say at a certain level of volume and respect is “Be quiet.”

This time of year in the winter season, we’re all indoors at home a lot more often

than we are in other seasons and much more susceptible to being driven nuts by an annoying little brother or sister (or a big brother or sister…or, if you’re really unfortunate as I was, both). It’s important to keep a sense of civility with your siblings, but even the best of us have been known to break and shout out—


An interesting way to phrase a request that somebody shut up, ‘Put a Sock in it’ got its start in the early 1900s. Two theories have formed about the origin of this phrase:

The Gramophone Theory
The gramophone (the first record-playing device) was invented just a little over a decade before the turn of the century (1887 to be exact). It was supposed that people would stuff a sock into the horn to decrease the volume as there was no volume control dial provided on these early record players.

Just Soldier Talk
The origin of ‘Put a Sock in it’ is much more likely to come from the trenches of World War I around 1915, when soldiers would alert one another to stop talking. Along with socks, soldiers would also suggest each other put a cork in it as well as a bung (an old device for sealing containers).

I myself like the gramophone theory better, but the records seem to point to the soldiers of World War I being the true origin. In any case, use this phrase sparingly as it’s not the nicest thing to say. Socks are meant for feet and not for stuffing (unless it’s Christmas Eve). Check out our selection of snug socks when you click right here and, as always, thanks for reading!


- John

...Stick Together

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Hey, Little Birdies!

Certain species of birds remain for the snow-covered months of winter, however, we all know it well that most birds fly south this time of year. We see it rather frequently in nature: birds of a single species forming in flocks. In fact, they often form in such dense clusters that they create these morphing sort of sinuous shapes when seen from a distance. We refer to these beautiful, flowing shapes as ‘murmurations’. 

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

Whether the Feather…
While borrowed from a fact of nature, we’re typically not talking about birds when we use this phrase, but people. It’s a sort of catchy way of saying that people with similar interests tend to hang out together. For instance, fans of Harry Potter tend to hang out with other fans of Harry Potter. It makes sense—similarities give us something to talk about.

Phrase Origin:
A similar statement can be found in a translation of ‘The Republic’—the ancient Greek work from Plato. Some people questioned if this phrase originated back then when Plato was alive, however, the phrase was almost assuredly used in the translation—not the original work. The first use of the phrase seems to come from about 500 years back when one William Turner put down in a written work from 1545, “Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together.”

Phrase Popularization:
No one knows how popular this phrase was before the 16th Century, but since its coining, it’s skyrocketed in popularity. Of course, it always helps a phrase when it’s used in a Christmas Song. Such a launching pad was set in place for this phrase in 1947 when the song Sleigh Ride was written, putting together in the lyrics:

“Our cheeks are nice and rosy and comfy and cozy are we
We're snuggled up together like two birds of a feather would be”

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


- John

Veiled Nail

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Hello, Folks among the Living!

This time of year is all about celebrating the autumnal season of the natural cycle which brings the end of life to much of the trees and vegetation in regions located northward and southward a ways from the equator. The green vanishes from tree leaves and the birds start disappearing. In the home state of Everything Summer Camp—Wisconsin—you might say things get as dead as a doornail.

There’s no shortage of turns of phrases and old sayings for us to look into to find out why we say things like ‘Keep it up’ and ‘Don’t lose your head’. These sayings are deeply embedded into our everyday speech; you probably don’t even know it when you use one. Today we’re taking a look at the phrase ‘Dead as a Doornail’. What’s so dead about a doornail? you might ask.

You’re not alone.

Charles Dickens wondered the same thing on the first page of his classic ‘A Christmas Carol’: “Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail," he wrote. "I don't…know…what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it...”

He brings up a good point. What exactly is so dead about a doornail? Why not a coffin nail? Well, the phrase goes back to 1350 in the carpentry trade. Back then, metal nails weren’t cheap. Most folks used wooden pegs—a much cheaper alternative to metal nails. The doors on wealthy homes, however, used nails with large heads to make the door stronger and able to open and close a thousand times without weakening.

The nails were so large that, when hammered, into the door, they would poke out the other side. Carpenters would then tap the protruding end to bend it flat against the wood. They called this ‘clinching’, and afterward the nail was rendered “dead” because it could never be used again.

Check back in when we return for another Adage Origin Blog post in November when we’ll take a look at our next Adage Origin Blog post. And, as always, thanks for reading!


- John

Use Your Words

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Hey, Camp Folks!

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 The Pen is Mightier than the Sword to see what it means and where it comes from.

The Meaning
Really what’s being said here is that conflicts can often be solved by intellectual means as opposed to physical fighting—and will be more effective as a result as well. Some other phrases with the same revelation are 'words are weapons’, ‘words cut deeper than a knife’, and ‘some words hurt more than swords’.

The Origin
"The pen is mightier than the sword" was first written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 as a line in his play ‘Cardinal Richelieu’ (the main villain in The Three Musketeers). A rather poetic way to say that words communicate better than violence, it makes perfect sense that this phrase was originally from a play.

The Point
It can be easy to give in to our animalistic impulse to fight when someone is doing something that upsets us, but as the heroes of countless classics teach us, the clever and cunning thinkers are the ones who come out the victor of certain issues and circumstances.

So remember, kids—use your words; they’re likely to get you the results you want out of a situation much better than resorting to violent means. Violence is never the answer. Check back in when we return for another Adage Origin Blog post in October when we’ll take a look at the phrase ‘Dead as a Doornail’. As always, thanks for reading!


- John

Don't Get Green with Envy

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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 phrase is ‘The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence’.

People often times shorten this phrase to ‘The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side’ or even just ‘The Grass is Always Greener’, but it all means the same thing. It’s pointing out the notion we’ve all had that the next person over has it better than we do—that, maybe under a different set of circumstances, our life could be a little nicer (or a lot nicer). The phrase is most commonly used to remind people that this is never really the case and just a notion in their head.

The origins of some other phrases can be rather unsure as to the time it was coined and who coined it. This one, however, was written in 1545 by a man named Erasmus of Rotterdam in England. But he didn’t write ‘The grass is always greener…’. No. He wrote that “The corne in an other mans ground semeth euer more fertyll and plentifull then doth oure own.”

Translated to our current speech, it would say, “The corn in another man’s ground seems ever more fertile and plentiful than our own does.” But what’s this guy talking about corn for? The phrase is about grass, isn’t it? Well, it’s likely that the corn was replaced with grass to make the saying more universal. Not everyone grows corn. Almost everyone has at least a little bit of grass.

Interestingly enough, corn (which is typically considered a vegetable) is actually a grain with the botanical classification of a grass. So corn is a grass anyhow. Both are also green, like the color associated with envy which could have also been an influential element when the final version of this phrase was crafted.

And, as I already mentioned, this phrase is most often used as a reminder for people to be grateful for the things they have. Be grateful for everything in your life including your grass (and corn if you have it) and, as always, thanks for reading!


- John