Did you know that those everyday phrases you adopt, such as ‘It’s raining cats and dogs’ and ‘Costs an arm and a leg’, each have their own unique and fascinating origins?
Whilst some idioms are relatively self-explanatory, others are completely absurd and their meanings will leave you scratching your head and wondering how they became such a big part of our vocabulary. But, nevertheless, these little snippets will continue to be a staple of the English language and will continue to develop over time.
In order to visualise some of the more whimsical and treasured sayings, we have worked with Hitched and their illustrator to bring the confusing language of love to life. So, why do we ask for someone’s hand in marriage, and not their head? Or their heart?
Meaning: To get married.
Origin: This popular phrase originated in America in the late 1500s to the early 1600s and was used to describe tying horses to wagons. It was later used to describe two people getting married as it was like two people being tied together – just as a horse is tied to a wagon.
Head over heels
Meaning: To fall deeply and completely in love, especially when it happens suddenly.
Origin: This phrase originated from another, ‘heels over head’. This phrase referred to people who had experienced a bad fall. The idiom itself become the iconic ‘head over heels’ in the late 1700s and began its association with falling in love.
Apple of my eye
Meaning: The person of whom one is extremely fond of. Their favourite person.
Origin: This expression first appeared in Old English in 885 AD, in written work attributed to King Alfred of Wessex, and originally referred to the central hole (pupil) of the eye. Shakespeare later used this phrase in 1600 in his acclaimed comedic play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, and it also appeared in English translations of the Bible in 1611. ‘Apple of my eye’ is most commonly used after appearing in a novel by Sir Walter Scott in 1816.
Match made in heaven
Meaning: Two people who are perfect for eachother.
Origin: Whilst the exact origin of this phrase is unknown, it is based on the belief that divine forces, such as fate, play a part in making two compatible beings meet.
Pop the question
Meaning: To propose the question of marriage to someone.
Origin: This idiom has been used since 1725 and is used in relation to asking about something important. The specific use of proposing marriage has been used since 1826.
Falling in love
Meaning: To become enamoured of each other. To start to feel love for someone, or something.
Origin: The word ‘fall’ is used in the expression to convey the sense that starting to love someone is something unexpected and unplanned, just as falling is unexpected and unplanned.
Ask for (someone’s) hand in marriage
Meaning: To ask someone to marry you.
Origin: In the past, a suitor would ask for the bride’s hand in marriage knowing he would get a large sum of money, or a land dowry, along with the promise of his new bride. The term comes from when the deal was ultimately sealed at the altar; when the father would hand over his daughter to her new ‘owner’.
Tie the knot
Meaning: To get married.
Origin: This phrase relates to the culturally rich handfasting unity ritual that dates back to the ancient Mayans, the Hindu Vedic community and the Celts in Scotland. Handfasting is the act of tying a couple’s hands together, with rope or ribbon, to represent their union.
Avoir des atomes crochus
Meaning: This phrase literally means “to have hooked atoms”, but it translates, from French, to ‘having great chemistry with someone’.
Origin: This phrase originated between 460 BC and 270 BC and hails from Greek atomists, such as Democritus and Epicure, who declared that two people owe their union to the joining of atoms.
Have you ever uttered any of the above phrases? Are the origins of these love idioms as romantic as you expected?
The act of marriage, the universally romantic union between two people, has an abundance of sayings attached to it. We would never have guessed that “getting hitched” originally related to the very matter-of-fact way of securing horses to wagons, or that many diverse cultures around the globe have used an identical “tie the knot” process between two lovers to signify their unity.
Declarations of love throughout time have been etched into history with romantic remarks that carry thousands of years of tradition. How many of these love idioms have you heard?