Thursday, September 03, 2009

Where did it come from?

Ever wondered where a particular everyday phrase originated? Commonly heard sayings like

No strings attached,

Not enough room to swing a cat 
Red letter day are all used often enough and we get the gist, as most people use them properly. But they all have a story and a place of origin. History can sometimes tell us about the events which drew people to use certain words in combinations we have come to accept as a part of today’s language.

Has someone got you ‘over a barrel’?
If they have chances are you are in an unhappy predicament, or helpless. Simply put, you are not in control. 
When I was a little girl I though it was someone had me ‘in’ a barrel, trapped like a prisoner. And while I had my mistaken version to misquote, the essence wasn’t so wrong.

Early explanations of this phrase link it to 19th century techniques used on unfortunate drowning victims. If a limp body were bent over a barrel, it was thought the rolling motion would work to clear waterlogged lungs.  Sadly, it’s been suggested this would have killed anyone misfortunate enough to have almost drowned in the first place! 

Another more credible explanation dates to an 1886 college prank where students were rolled face down over a barrel as a public punishment. Shackled and toyed with for fun, this experience would surely have been one of complete embarrassment and helplessness. 

No one wants to be at the mercy of anyone else - to be bound and trapped in miserable circumstances. We avoid finding ourselves in a situation where we admit that someone has us “over a barrel” at all costs.

That’s why the rescue plan of God is so vital.  Who can do anything for themselves when they are tied hand and foot? When we consider sin’s hopeless entrapment we can only cry out to God for help. He has put into place a way of escape from sin and death through His son Jesus. We only need to call out to Him and He will smash that dirty prank into smithereens - barrel, ropes and all. 

Psalm 118:5 In my anguish I cried to the LORD,
       and he answered by setting me free.

                            Now THAT is a red letter day.........

 World Wide Words