“As Mad As A Hatter”, “Break A Leg” And 3 More Expressions With Crazy Origins

Remember when we talked about the origins of “break the ice”, “bite the bullet”, “turn a blind eye”, “the whole nine yards” and “bury the hatchet”? Well, because we know you loved it, here they are: 5 more phrases we use in our every day life and their interesting origins.

5. Break a leg

Photo: New York Public Library

Break a leg is used when wishing someone good luck.

The phrase comes from the theatre world. It originates from the superstition that one should not wish an actor ‘good luck’ because it was believed that the opposite will occur. By wishing him something bad though, you hope that he will indeed have good luck during his performance. But why ‘break a leg’ in particular? (the article continues after the ad)

Because it meant that the actor would put on a performance so good that he/she will need to bend the knee in a bow and to collect the coins the crowd will throw on stage.


4. Call it a day

Photo: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eboni Reece

To stop working or doing an activity for the rest of the day.

Call it a day originates from a time were people were employed to work for a full day – “a day’s work” as it’s most often called. When they were to stop working before their usual working hours, let’s say in the noon, they used the expression to signify that their working day is over, even though they only worked for half a day’s work.


3. Cat got your tongue?

Photo: isakarakus / Pixabay

Used when someone is peculiarly silent.

The expression was first found in print in 1881 in the Volume 53 of the US paper Ballou’s Monthly Magazine. The exact citation used in the magazine was “Has the cat got your tongue, as the children say?” and the word ‘children’ is key here. The expression was used by children in their school playgrounds and it was a reference to the way outdoor cats drag little captives into the house.


2. As mad as a hatter

Photo: The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health / Flickr

The expression is used for someone who is completely mad.

Back in the day, mercury was used in the making of hats – a chemical element that’s been known to affect the nervous system. Because of their continuous exposure to mercury, hatters were often trembling and appear to other people as insane, hence the phrase “(as) mad as a hatter”.


1. Barking up the wrong tree

Photo: Town of Danville, CA

Barking up the wrong tree means making a mistake or following a wrong line of thought when trying to achieve something.

The expression is firstly used in printing in 1832 at James Kirke Paulding’s Westward Ho! and it’s a reference to hunting dogs that sometimes bark at the wrong trees mistakenly thinking that their prey is hiding.

If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: “Break The Ice”, “Bite The Bullet” And 3 More Expressions With Crazy Origins

Photo: getmahesh / Flickr, WikimediaImages / Pixabay
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Break a leg | Call it a day | Has the cat got your tongue?Cat got your tongue?As mad as a hatterBarking up the wrong tree

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