More “What’s in a name?”

Delores E. Topliff – August 2, 2016

Words perfectly-suited to life situations are coins for the realms we travel and do business in, just like we exchange currencies at international borders to exchange goods with the people there. Similarly, authors define their writing audience to choose words that will achieve the best impact in hitting targets for successful communication.

Let’s mint great expressions that survive like many fun general domain phrases passed down to us, along with the interesting stories behind them.

Whether we say Heaven’s to Betsy, or Heaven’s to Murgatroyd, depends on cultural background. “Betsy” (as in Sweet Betsy from Pike) is very American while Murgatroyd comes from the Middle English and Norse words, Mooor Gate Royde meaning “district leading to the moors,” and became the surname of a Yorkshire, England constable.

To be worth our salt means to be worth our pay and the word salary originates from it. If we’re not worth our salt, we’re in trouble.

Being below the salt goes back to medieval times.  As a valued seasoning and preservative, salt was placed in the middle of dining tables. The lord and his family were seated above it while other guests and servants sat below the salt.

Sincere from Roman times literally means without wax, guaranteeing that the sculpture or stonework presented is genuine—no wax was applied to fill or hide imperfections, a subterfuge easily discovered when heat was applied.

Authors show sincerity in characters. When heat is applied, are ours genuine? Or do cracks appear as their beauty and/or stability is seen to be flawed and needing repair.

There are a million more, and I still love place names, too. I’ve been to Moose Jaw and Medicine Hat. My sons have visited Cold Foot, AK. And there are more places I want to see to hear their stories—places like the Foggy Bottom part of Washington D.C., Yellow Knife, NWT, Accident, MD, Cut and Shoot, TX, Hell, AZ (that one’s easy to guess), and the Highway leading there.

What about you? Tell us your favorite phrases or place names, and if you know their stories, pass them on.

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