Archive for ‘why do we say?’

February 7th, 2014

Name the Day IV – Frigg and Freya

by Chris Hancock


“Hello! I’m Frigg, or Frigga – it’s okay, I don’t mind which. Remember Odin? (I know… it’s been a long week). I’m his wife, and look after him when he’s not out on his eight-legged horse throwing his spear around. Men, huh? Of course, being a woman, I can multi-task. So, I can also see into the future (though I never speak of it, which seems pretty daft but nobody dares to pull me up on that). Throw in “Mother of All” and “Protector of Children” and you can see I’m kept pretty busy. One thing I must mention – people sometimes get me mixed up with that Freya. Let’s just say that, when it comes to the day-of-the-week ‘thing’, I’m – oh, heck… I can hear her chariot wheels. Here she comes now.”


“Hello! I’m Freya, or Freyja – it’s okay, I don’t mind which. Has Frigg been talking about me? I can do that perfectly well for myself, thank you. I ride around on this lovely cat-drawn chariot. Plus, I’m a goddess of love and beauty, and wear the sacred necklace Brisingamen. It was made for me by four dwarves, though I… ahem… had to ‘bestow favours’ on them in return. Look – erm – can we change the subject? I’m known as Queen of the Valkyries, and get first pick of those slain in battle, whom I bear to Valhalla. Oh yes, one other thing… did Frigg mention the day-of-the-week ‘thing’? Because I’m -”

“Hey Freya! We’re never going to decide this one way or the other. Let’s not fight about everything like the men do.”

“Okay, okay, Frigg. You’re right. We’ll do it the way we agreed. After three…”

Both: “One, two, three – and Friday is our day.”

February 6th, 2014

Name the Day III – Thor

by Chris Hancock


“Stop! Hammer time! Ahh… I never tire of saying that. I’m Thor, as I’m sure you know – nice for you to meet me. Heh!

“I’m a pretty big noise in the Norse pantheon – literally. You hear thunder, or the sound of lightning… that’s me wielding my mighty hammer Mjollnir. I ride around in my goat-drawn chariot – admittedly, goats don’t quite go with my rugged, powerful image but they were all I could get at the time.

“As you might have noticed, everyone around here claims to be a god of war. Let’s just say I’m THE god of war. You can put me down for thunder and strength, too. I’m always performing great feats of bravery, like slaying bulls with my bare hands. That’s because I wear a belt, Megingjord, that doubles my strength. I also “call forth gentle winds to release the earth from its bondage of ice and snow”, but I tend to keep quiet about that as it sounds a bit soppy. You could think of that as a “Thor thaw” – d’you see what I did there? I crack myself up, sometimes, I really do.

“I hear you’ve met my dad, Odin. He’s supposed to be the supreme deity but – and keep this to yourself – I think I run him pretty close. I mean… everyone’s heard of Thor and his hammer, right? And I don’t see any Hollywood blockbusters called “Odin”. Just sayin’.

“Anyway, I’d better… Stop! Hammer time! See? Never gets old.

“Yep, I’m Thor… and Thorsday – whoops, I mean Thursday – is my day.”

February 5th, 2014

Name the Day II – Odin

by Chris Hancock

“I am Odin, father of the gods! Cower before my might, ye worthless minions!!”


“Heh! It’s okay, I’m only kidding – I’m a big softie, really. But, when you’re chief god of the Norse pantheon, you have to put on a bit of a show. It’s expected, you know?

“So what do you want to hear? I’m god of war, death, poetry, magic, prophecy, wisdom and the hunt. I carry a spear called Gungnir – I know what you’re thinking, who gives a name to a spear? In my defence, it’s no ordinary spear, because it never misses its target. How cool is that? I ride a horse called Sleipnir which has – don’t laugh – eight legs. That’s pretty neat, except he costs me a fortune in blacksmith charges. Oh, yeah… and I get all the juicy gossip from my two ravens, Huginn and Muninn. That’s Huginn on my right… or is it on my left? Between you and me, one raven is very much like another.

 “Is it bright enough for you in here? I ask because – I don’t know if you’ve noticed – I only have one eye, but apparently it “blazes like the sun”. I traded my other one for a drink from the Well of Wisdom… as you do. This means I know everything – except how to tell my ravens apart.

“So that’s me, Odin. I’m also known as Woden… and Wednesday is my day.”

February 4th, 2014

Name the Day I – Tyr

by Chris Hancock


“Hi! Tyr here. What? The name doesn’t ring a bell? Norse god of… ooh, all sorts of things – law, heroic glory, war, stuff like that. I can’t believe you’ve not heard of me. At one time I’ll have you know I was head honcho… top banana in the whole Nordic pantheon. But Odin took over in that role… and now – to add insult to injury – they’re telling me he’s my dad. How should I know? Families, eh?

“What happened to my hand? Long story… I’ll just give you the main points. There was this gigantic wolf called Fenrir. Being a real nuisance, he was. I and the other gods persuaded Fenrir to let us tie him up, but he’d only do it if one god agreed to put their hand into his mouth. “You’re brave Tyr, you do it,” they all said. So muggins volunteered, popped my hand into his slobbery chops and – you’re ahead of me, right? – Fenrir got a little jittery and bit it off. Makes washing-up a real pain, I can tell you.

“So that’s me, Tyr. I’m also known as Tiw… and Tuesday is my day.”

[Ed’s note: This is the first in a four part series, which you may or may not have guessed the theme of.]

November 15th, 2013

a pig in a poke

You know when you buy something online, and then it finally arrives, and it’s not at all what you thought it would be? You’ve just bought a pig in a poke.  A poke is a kind of bag or sack, from the French poque (from which we also get pocket). Now, clearly, if one were to buy a bag which the owner claimed contained a pig, and you never thought to check inside, it might contain something else entirely. Hence the saying “Never buy a pig in a poke”. Solid, practical advice here.

pig in a poke

November 14th, 2013

pearls before swine

Pearls are lovely, shiny, valuable things, well suited to clutching. What you shouldn’t do with your pearls, under any circumstances, is cast them away. But if you were interested in getting rid of your pearls, it’d be good to give them to someone who really wants them, or maybe sell them for a bit of hard cash. Throwing them in front of pigs would just be plain silly. What are pigs going to do with pearls?

pearls before swine

Although the saying had been around for a while before then, the advice to not throw pearls before swine was popularised by Jesus. At the time, pigs were considered unclean animals, and so a particularly stark contrast to the pretty pearls.

November 13th, 2013

happy as a pig in clover

I may have been behaving incorrectly around clover my entire life. See, my first instinct is to count the leaves, in eternal pursuit of a four-leafed one – I’ve found three in my time. But it turns out that “being in clover” means to live life luxuriously. I should have been rolling around in it. Specifically, clover makes cows fat and healthy and happy.

So how did pigs come into it? Well, we all know that the cliché has it pigs are the most gluttonous of creatures, so who could possibly enjoy a field of clover more than a pig?

pig in clover

November 12th, 2013

bringing home the bacon

bring home the bacon

The first recorded instance of the bacon being brought home was in 1906, when boxer Joe Gans’ mother telegrammed that she expected him to win a big fight and “bring back the bacon”. He indeed did so. The phrase became almost as popular as bacon itself is on social media these days, and was swiftly being used by sports journalists to describe people winning contests or prizes.

Allegedly the phrase relates back to a practice which began in Great Dunmow in England, in the 12th Century, whereby those who could prove that they and their wives were truly devoted to marriage would be offered a side of bacon, or a “flitch” – known as the Dunmow Flitch Trials, these still take place today. It’s a lovely tale, but were it true that this is the origin of the phrase, it would most likely have been recorded in print sometime before 1906.

November 11th, 2013

saving one’s bacon

People have been saving each other’s bacon since 1691 – saving them from grave peril. Opinion is divided as to whether this means saving their flesh, comparing human flesh to pig flesh, or whether it literally meant saving someone’s bacon from damage or harm. I know several people who would be most grateful indeed, were their bacon in grave peril, if a friend saved it and put in in the fridge, or similar bacon-saving device.

Another possibility is that bacon and back derive from the same root word, and that the original could have been “saving someone’s back”, similar to the modern “I’ve got your back”.

Either way, we’ve decided that bacon is a good cure for the Monday blues, and a perfect way to kick off a week of pig related idioms.

save the bacon

October 29th, 2013

devil’s advocate

When someone likes to argue for argument’s sake, or be deliberately provocative, we call them a devil’s advocate. This is often encouraged as a “troubleshooting” method in trendy corporate jargon, but has its origins in 16th Century Catholicism. Pope Sixtus V (who narrowly pipped Fivetus VI to the post), after some pontification, established a process for vetting potential saints, whereby a canon lawyer would be appointed to dig the dirt on proposed saints, and put the case for why they should be excluded from the holy ranks. The devil’s advocate was also known as the Promoter of the Faith. He (because yes, it would have been a he) would be opposed by God’s advocate, or the Promoter of the Cause who would argue how very saintly indeed their nominee was.

Although, if it’s true that the devil has all the best lawyers, then perhaps the process was flawed.

In 1982 Pope John Paul II grew tired of this process, and abolished it, instigating a “the more the merrier” period of holiness, with 1300 beatifications and 500 canonisations taking place during his papacy – compared to the meagre 82 who made the cut between 1900 and 1982.

So sadly, you can no longer aspire to be a devil’s advocate. Unless you’re Al Pacino.