Origins of Words & Phrases

Magnifying Glass over Dictionary

This is one I’ve figured out for myself. It actually didn’t take much figuring out, but it was just a connection I’d never made before. Or I did make it ages ago and then forgot about it? Seems to happen more and more these days… Where was I? Right, back in ye olde days


Ye Olde Days

when an invading army was laying siege to an impregnable castle

An Impregnable Castle

An Impregnable Castle

one of the methods they would use, once hurling large rocks and cuttingly sarcastic comments at the defenders failed, was to dig tunnels some distance from the walls and work their way until they were beneath the stout walls of the fortress. They would then plant explosives to cause a breach in the defences and allow their army to enter.

Thus they had undermined the castle, in the way today that we undermine someone’s argument, confidence or whatever.

About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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2 Responses to Origins of Words & Phrases

  1. chloefb says:

    I was wondering when your next post in this series was coming just yesterday when I was thinking how the meaning of phrases can change (perhaps that can be a spin off series!). In particular I was thinking how the phrase “left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing” comes from the bible, but in the bible it’s a good thing, whereas now it’s a phrase about being incompetent!

    • Phrases can and do become corrupted over the years. ‘The exception that proves the rule’ is one. My trusty BIll Bryson book points out that an exception could never prove a rule, and that ‘prove’ in this context is a ‘fossil’ which originally meant ‘test’, as in ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. Thus an exception tests a rule, but doesn’t affirm or validate it.

      (PS As a non-Christian I’m tempted to say there are a lot of things considered good in the bible that no longer are. But that would be naughty so I won’t.)

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