Idioms allow us to communicate clearly even while using words that have nothing to do with our meaning. My American Idioms Dictionary, for instance, lists twenty-one idioms beginning with the word leave, covering the better part of two pages. Oddly, most idioms’ origins are shaded in mystery. Three of the six idiom sources below are legitimate. Three are manufactured. See if you can determine the faux origins (answers are in the comments section).
Leave someone holding the bag (1700s) This idiom comes from a hazing game much like a snipe hunt, in which a gullible individual is sent up into the hills with a bag while his/her tormenters claim they’ll drive the elusive snipe out of the bushes & into the bag, but instead, have a good laugh at the expense of their innocent victim.
Leave someone high & dry (1700s) When a ship was run aground or caught on land due to a dropping tide, it was left high and dry.
Leave no stone unturned (1700s) Based on the behavior of a North American bird, the ruddy turnstone, which is surprisingly diligent in its efforts to turn over stones to find food.
Leave well enough alone (1400s) The old Scottish game Twibbits involved flipping discs, the goal being to place one’s disc as far from others’ discs as possible, yet near the goal. The winner was said to be left alone, but if two throws tied, the round was judged well enough alone, a term equal to our modern good enough.
Leave someone in the lurch (1500s) This idiom has its origins in a French cribbage-like game called lourche in which a player was said to be left in the lurch when s/he was put in a hopeless position.
Leave someone out in the cold (1500s) When the portcullis of a castle or other fortified building was lowered at dusk, members of the household were sometimes left out in the cold.
Please consider which three seem most authentic, then check answers in the comments section & let us all know how you did.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Phrase Finder, NTC’s American Idioms Dictionary, & Etymonline
What with all the schooling happening at home, why not take a look at some of the words we associate with school?
A student is one who studies, though in modern American culture, not every student who fits the definition of study established in the early 1100s, to strive toward, devote oneself, cultivate or show zeal for. Of note is the fact that study’s mother word from Proto-Indo-European was (s)teu-. Its meaning may fit another percentage of the modern student population, to push, stick, knock or beat. Then again, it’s possible that pushing, knocking & beating may be a figurative reference to the parents & teachers “encouraging” those students who aren’t naturally showing zeal for their education.
The first English form of the word teach was tæcan, which meant to show, point out, declare, direct, warn, persuade or demonstrate. It came from Proto-Indo-European & is related to the words diction, dictionary, dictate, & token.
The word education came to English in the 1400s from the Latin verb educare/educere, to rear, educate, train, nourish, or support, made of the word parts ex + ducere. In its modern form it means to lead out or draw forth.
Old English’s leornian, to get knowledge, be cultivated, study or read, gave us our modern word learn, which came from the Proto-Indo-European word leis, to follow or find the track or furrow.
And last, the word school showed up in Old English through Latin from the Greek word skhole, meaning spare time, leisure, rest, ease or idleness, because one didn’t engage in such things as learning until the work of surviving was done. Given that, I find it fascinating that skhole comes from the Proto-Indo-European word segh, which meant to hold in one’s power.
Please leave a thought or two about all this in the comments section.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: OED, Merriam Webster, Wordnik, & Etymonline
I write for teens & tweens, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.
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