Phrases and Sayings..
How many of you have heard the phrase.. “Break a leg”? How many know what it means? It means.. “good luck”. But how does “break a leg” translate into “good luck”? How did that come about? You’d think that breaking your leg would be bad luck, not good luck. So, does anyone know how that phrase came to be used, and how it came to mean.. “good luck” ?
“Break a leg” is a phrase that came bout in the old days of the theatre, when actors and actresses performed live on stage; And of course they still do that today. But picture a theatre stage, and picture the curtains that form the backdrop to the stage, and the curtains that go off to the sides of the stage. Those curtains form a “line”, or a division, between what the audience can see, an what they can’t see. If someone is backstage, they’re behind that line of curtains, and away from what the audience can see. And the side curtains were called “leg curtains”. And the line those curtains created, was called the “leg line”.
And when an actor was given the opportunity to come out from behind the curtain, and onto the stage to perform, he was said to “break the leg line”, so he could be seen and perform. And so when an actor was called to come out onto the stage, his fellow actors would wish him luck by saying .. “break a leg”.
I’ll bet you didn’t know all that did you? Some of you might have, but I didn’t; Not until I read about it. But there’s lots of phrases that we use, or that we hear, in our everyday life; And we probably have no idea where some of these sayings came from. But it’s interesting to find out.
Like maybe the saying.. “bite the bullet”. Who first came up with that one? I mean, we know what it means, right? It means to just go ahead and do something, and get it over with, even though you might not want to do it. It typically refers to doing some unpleasant thing. I might not want to do this unpleasant thing, but I know that I have to do it, and so, I might a swell just “bite the bullet” and get it done.
I read that the first written example of that phrase, was made by Rudyard Kipling, in a novel he wrote in 1891, called “The Light That Failed”. It’s said that the phrase came to be used when someone needed to have some kind of surgery, before there was any anesthetic to ease the pain. And so a person would take something, in this case a bullet, or a bullet casing, and they would clinch it between their teeth, and they’d bit into it, as hard as they could, in order to withstand the pain of the surgery. They’d sometimes use a thick piece of leather to bit into. But other times, a bullet was said to have been used.
So it’s kind of interesting where sayings come from. Here’s a few more sayings that we’re quite used to hearing;
“Better late than never”, or “let’s call it a day”, or “beat around the bush”, or “don’t cut corners”, or “cut me some slack”. Or how about “a dime a dozen”, or “back to the drawing board”, or “get your act together”, or “you’re pulling my leg”, or “give me a break”.
We could go on all day, couldn’t we? But what I’d like you to think about, is the fact that a lot of popular sayings that we use today, actually come directly from the bible. And there’s other sayings that people have come up with, that although they don’t come directly from the bible, the thoughts behind them definitely DO come from the bible.
Now here’s a saying that you’ve no doubt heard; “By the skin of his teeth”. You didn’t know that your teeth had skin, did you? They don’t literally, but you know what that phrase means, right? It’s like saying.. He escaped injury by the skin of his teeth. In other words, he just barely got away without being hurt.
Have you ever read that saying in the bible? It’s there; It says in Job 19, verse 20. Job wrote; “My bones stick to my skin and to my flesh, and I have escaped by the skin of my teeth.”
When I first became interested in learning about what the bible says, I didn’t know where to go in the bible, to start reading. So I’d just randomly read here and there. And one thing I remember is that as I read, I would come across phrases, or sayings like that, that I had no idea were in the bible. I’m not sure if that phrase originated with the bible; I think it probably did though. But I was really impressed with how the bible has influenced how we talk, and how those sayings stick with us today.
How about this saying.. “Can a leopard change his spots?” It’s a rhetorical question; It doesn’t require an answer, because the answer is obvious. It’s like saying.. Does the sun rise in the east? Well of course it does.
That reminds me though, of the old TV show called “The Newlywed Game”. Anyone remember that show? The host would ask the husbands questions when the wives weren’t there, and then they’d bring the wives in and ask them the same question and see if the answers matched. And they’d do the same with the wives. They’d ask them questions when the husbands were gone, and then see if the husbands would give the same answers.
And the host would like to pick on the wives, and see if he could confuse them. So one of his questions was.. In YOUR neighborhood, which direction does the sun come up from? And he’d say, now remember, this is in YOUR neighborhood. (As if the sun is going to come from different directions, in different neighborhoods. But he got all kinds of answers. The wives would picture their bedroom’s, and the morning sun coming in thru the window. And they’d try to figure out which direction that window faced.
But getting back to the scriptures, the bible says in Jeremiah 13, verse 23; “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? Then also can you do good, who are accustomed to doing evil.”
Here’s a phrase you’ve probably all said a time or two; “A drop in the bucket”. The money I make is like a drop in a bucket, compared to the price of things today! Do you know where that saying comes from? From the bible! Isaiah 40:15 says; “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales; Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.”
It’s amazing the influence the bible has had, on our everyday way 0f speaking.
Maybe you’ve heard the saying.. “A fly in the ointment”? Well, here’s what the bible says in Ecclesiastes 10, verse 1; “Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; So a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.”
They say there’s “no rest for the wicked”, don’t they? Where do you think that little saying comes from? How about Isaiah 57:20 & 21.. “But the wicked are like the tossing sea; For it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.” No rest for the wicked.
Have you ever wanted to get down “to the root of the matter”? Evidently Job did. It says in Job 19:28; “But ye should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?”
Don’t you find it interesting, how all these common sayings actually come from the bible? A lot of these sayings are literally thousands of years old. You might say, “there’s nothing new under the sun”. That’s what Solomon said, in Ecclesiastes 1, verse 9; “What has been is what will be, and what has been done, is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”
Here’s a question for you.. Have you ever been “at your wits end”? Psalm 107:27 says; “They reeled and staggered like drunken men, and were at their wits’ end.”
We’ve all heard about “an eye for an eye”. The first time that phrase is found in the bible is in Exodus 21:24; And of course Jesus mentioned that old saying, in Mathew 5:38.
But what about the idea of “seeing eye to eye”? You know, being in agreement. Where do you think that saying came from? How about from Isaiah 52, verse 8; “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; With the voice together shall they sing: For they shall see eye to eye, when the LORD shall bring again Zion.”
How much has the bible, influenced our speech? We talk about “Going the extra mile”, (Mathew 5:41) “Casting the first stone”, (John 8:7) “The good Samaritan”, (Luke 10:30 thru 37) “The blind leading the blind”, (Mathew 15:13 & 14) “The handwriting on the wall”, (Daniel chapter 5) “Falling from grace (Galatians 5:4) “The straight and narrow” (Mathew 7:14) “A thorn in your side” (2 Corinthians 12:7) “A wolf in sheep’s clothing” (Mathew 7:15)
Have you ever had enough of something, and just wanted to “wash your hands” of it? Remember what Pilate said when he couldn’t find any fault with Jesus? It says in Mathew 27, verse 24; “When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.”
If something were to happen very quickly, you might say, it happened “in the twinkling of an eye”.
Where have you heard that saying before? Maybe in 1 Corinthians 15:52; “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.”
You know, sometimes we use sayings that aren’t specifically found in the bible, but the idea behind the sayings are there. For example, I was visiting one time with my neighbor Dave Hall (He’s got a ranch two miles up the road from my house) And it was when they were putting up their first cutting of hay. But he had taken a short break from the haying, and was checking some irrigation water up my way. And after we had visited for a while, I said to him; “Well, you better go make hay while the sun shines”. And Dave looked at me a said; “Someone ought to make saying like that.”
Now, you won’t find that exact saying in the bible, will you? But, you will find that idea behind that saying in the bible! Here’s what Jesus said in John 9, verse 4; “We must work the works of Him who sent Me, while it is day; Night is coming, when no one can work.” Make hay while the sun shines.. Work while it is day. Even though we sometimes make our own sayings, a lot of the time the thought is straight from the bible.
Here’s a quote from the French writer and philosopher named Voltaire; Listen to this.. This is interesting; “Every man is guilty, of all the good, he did not do.”
Once again.. ” “Every man is guilty, of all the GOOD, he did not do.” How could anyone be guilty of “good”? Was that something that Voltaire simply dreamt up by himself. Or did he maybe read something somewhere, that gave him that idea?
Do you think he might have once read what the bible says in James 4:17? Here’s what that verse says; “To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
God says.. “To him that knows to do good, but does not do that “good”, to him it is sin.” And Voltaire says.. “Every man is guilty, of all the good, he did not do.” I wouldn’t give Voltaire much credit for that one, would you? Let’s give credit where credit is due. I wonder where that saying came from? “Give credit where credit is due.”
Do you think that could echo back to Romans 13, verse 7? The scripture says; “Pay to all what is owed to them: Taxes to whom taxes are owed; Revenue to whom revenue is owed; Respect to whom respect is owed; Honor to whom honor is owed.” “Give credit where credit is due.”
And who is it that deserves ALL credit? 1 Timothy 1:17 says; “Now to the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”