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Where did that come from? Volume #3

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Knowing where common, everyday words and phrases come from gives you an advantage over others. On a personal level, it’s the kind of information that gains immediate attention, making you the focal point of interesting, memorable conversations.

Chairman” is a compound word stemming from medieval times. It comes from an era when male figures were dominant. Those in charge of families, clans, groups, or assemblies were considered important leaders who were “in command.”

These influential people, like royalty, were the only ones allowed to sit in chairs, making them the highest in the room. The others sat on the floor or on benches. The two words, “chair” and “man” were combined, becoming a normal part of the lexicon.

Another term, “Chairman of the Board,” evolved from linking the word, “chairman” (with the same connotation), to old eating practices. Up through the 1700s, dining areas consisted of a large space (or room) with only one chair.

In those days, dining tables were made by arranging several boards on top of trestles. Later, a single, long, wide one folded down from the wall. The “head of the household” (typically a man), was the only one allowed to sit in the chair. Again, everyone else sat on the floor or on benches. When an honored guest (usually another man) was present, he was invited to occupy the chair. That’s how we got the term, “Chairman of the Board.”

Today, the word, “blockbuster,” a fairly newer expression when compared to the rest, is normally used when talking about entertainment. It means anything that makes a huge impact. It originates from a special, superior bomb produced during World War II that was powerful enough to level a full block of buildings with one blast.

The familiar, often-used phrase, “no spring chicken,” has an interesting background. Meaning someone (or something) is not young, it originated with chicken farmers in New England. They quickly realized chickens born in the spring brought higher prices than those who’d lived through the winter. When farmers tried to sell the older ones under the pretense they were younger, knowing customers used that phrase to complain.

It’s highly entertaining to know the origins of today’s commonly used words and phrases. That’s why it’s easy to understand how greatly it improves your communication skills. When things bring this much enjoyment, they’re simple to remember and fun to share.

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