Did you know?

Why is someone who is feeling great ‘on cloud nine’?

Clouds are classified (numbered) according to the altitude of the cloud base, with nine being the highest cloud. If someone is said to be on cloud nine, then that person is in a state of elation – literally ‘on top of the world’.

Why are zero scores in tennis called ‘love’?

In France, a country where tennis originally became popular, the figure ‘zero’ on the scoreboard was called ‘l’oeuf’ (French for ‘the egg’) because it looked like an egg. Later, when tennis was launched in the US, Americans mispronounced ‘l’oeuf’ as ‘love’. Since then, the word has flourished!

Why do women’s clothes have buttons on the left while men’s clothes have buttons on the right?

When functional buttons first appeared in the 13th century in Europe, they were expensive and therefore, used primarily by the rich. Since most people are right-handed, it is easier to push buttons on the right through holes on the left. As was the custom those days, wealthy women were dressed by maids and dressmakers put the buttons on the maid’s right! And that’s where women’s buttons have remained since.

Why do ships and aircraft use ‘Mayday!’ as their call for help?

This comes from the French word m’aidez – meaning ‘help me’ – and is pronounced more like ‘Mayday.’

Why are many coin banks shaped like pigs?

In ancient Europe, dishes and cookware were made of dense orange clay called ‘pygg’. When people saved coins in jars made of this clay, the jars became known as ‘pygg banks.’ Unfortunately, an English potter misunderstood the word and he made a coin bank that resembled a pig. And it caught on!

Why is shifting responsibility to someone else called ‘passing the buck’?

In card games, it was once a common practice to pass an item (called a buck) from player to player to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player did not wish to assume the responsibility of dealing, he would ‘pass the buck’ to the next player.

Why X’s at the end of a letter signify kisses?

In the Middle Ages when many people were unable to read or write, documents were often signed using an X. Kissing the X signified a promise to fulfill obligations specified in the document. Eventually, the X and the kiss became synonymous.

Why are people in the public eye said to be ‘in the limelight’?

When limelight – a bright, incandescent lamp made of a cylinder of lime – was invented in 1825 in England, it was originally used in lighthouses and theatres. In the theatre, a performer ‘in the limelight’ was the centre of attention.

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