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Did you know they started ‘hearing through the grapevine’ during the American Civil War? It was a reference to the telegraph lines used for communicating with the army. These looked like twisted grapevines. And why does the phrase now suggest unreliable information? Because the lines were used by enemy troops to send false battle reports.
Similarly, ‘deadline’ has a rather disturbing and extremely sinister origin. Again originating in the American Civil War it refers to an actual line drawn in the dirt or marked by a fence around prisoners. If the prisoners crossed this line the guards would shoot to kill.
And of course, “Cut to the quick,” originally meant a sword blow that cut through the armor and into the flesh beneath.
Jam-packed with many amazing facts, Stickle’'s Sideburns and Bikinis is an intriguing and entertaining trip through the words and phrases that originated in the military but are now used by soldier and civilian alike. The sources of many are surprising and their original use is often far removed from how we use the word today. From ‘duds’ to ‘freelancers’ and ‘morris dancing’ to ‘snooker’ this enthralling book describes the military origins of words that we all use without thought on a daily basis.