By hook or by crook- There are several derivations given. One is that peasants were permitted under the ancient forestry acts only to take from the forests that which they could reach from the edge with their hooks or shepherds crooks. Another version has it that Cromwell vowed to take Waterford in Ireland attacking either via the villages of Hook or Crook
Wet your whistle- Many years ago in England, pub frequenters had a whistle baked into their ceramic cups, often on the rim of the handle. When they needed a refill, they used the whistle to get some service
Rule of thumb- Derived from an old British law which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider than your thumb… Or it has also been said that Before thermometers were invented, brewers would dip a thumb or finger into the mix to find the right temperature for adding yeast. Too cold, and the yeast wouldn't grow. Too hot, and the yeast would die. This thumb in the beer is where we get the phrase "rule of thumb".
Goodnight, sleep tight- In Shakespeare's time, mattresses were secured on bed frames by ropes. When you pulled on the ropes the mattress tightened, making the bed firmer to sleep on
The whole nine yards- When W.W.II fighter pilots in the Pacific were arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50 caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their ammo at a target, it got "the whole 9 yards."
Mind your p’s and q’s- In English pubs, ale is ordered by pints and quarts. So in old England, when customers got unruly, the bartender would yell at them to mind their own pints and quarts and settle down… some people add onto this that it really is aimed at determining how much beer has been drunk by each person and so the waitresses should mind the p’s and q’s and keep tally of how much as been drunk…
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater- Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May and were still smelling pretty good by June. However, they were starting to smell, so brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the B.O. Baths were a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of nice clean hot water. Then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all were the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it
It’s raining cats and dogs- Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw pile high. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the pets, dogs, cats and other small aminals, mice rats, bugs, lived in the roof. When it rained, it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof
And my favorite- Cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey- This very common description of the British winter weather actually comes from the times when the navy fought with cannon balls. These were stored on deck, besides the actual cannon. With the rolling of the ship the balls would roll aound the ship. They were welded to small stable upright called, a brass monkey. In the bitter cold the weld could snap and the let loose the balls
There you have it folks.