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
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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