Say what?

Have you ever wondered about the origin of certain phrases ? I do, and tend to go off on meandering paths of research that waste an inordinate amount of time. So allow me to share a few explanations in the hopes that this will be quick and painless… for you anyway.

#1. Basket Case

While it tends to be used in a fairly lighthearted way today (usually describing someone who makes stupid mistakes, or crumbles under pressure), the original basket case is a gruesome reminder of how bloody war can be. In its original context, a basket case was a soldier who had been so badly injured that he had to be carried from the battlefield in a barrow or basket, usually with the implication that he had lost all four of his limbs.

Yes, that phrase was considerably darker upon inception.



#2. Cooties

As a nickname for body or head lice, cooties first appeared as slang in 1915. It’s apparently derived from the coot, a species of waterfowl supposedly known for being infested with lice and other parasites.

Hmm. And I always thought I made it up in the second grade to describe that weird little girl with the greasy hair who lived down the street. Disappointing, that.



#3. Pogey Bait

Pogey-bait was candy, or a sweet snack of any kind, among American and Canadians. No one is quite sure where the term comes from, but the first part could be pogy, a nickname for the menhaden fish, literally “fish-bate”.

I realize this phrase may be slightly regional to my area, but the fact that “fish bate” was turned into a term for candy really does boggle the mind. A lump of dead fish…. or a chocolate bar? Not really a hard choice there.


15 thoughts on “Say what?”

  1. Never heard of the last one. We have all sorts of expressions with long histories in the UK – everything from “as cold as a brass monkey”, to “a sight for sore eyes”, “pardon my french”, “don’t count your chickens”, and so on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. To be fair , if you live outside of Maine/ eastern coast of Canada I wouldn’t expect you to be familiar with pogey ( which spell check keeps changing to lovely… and believe me they’re not) bait.


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